It’s a given that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have at least one new quarterback on the team when training camp rolls around in July. At the moment, Pittsburgh has just one QB under contract for 2022, that being former third-round pick Mason Rudolph, who signed a one-year contract extension in April 2021—an extension that Rudolph called a “vote of confidence” on the part of his employer.
The presumption is that the Steelers are also going to bring back former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who was signed to a one-year contract in January 2021 and can be readily retained for another season, as he’s a restricted free agent.
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After that the possibilities are dizzying, as the Steelers can trade for a veteran, sign a free agent, and/or select a rookie in the forthcoming draft.
With all that in mind, Brooke Pryor—who covers the Steelers for ESPN’s NFL Nation—served as Pittsburgh’s general manager in a simulation of quarterback movement around the league. Keeping in mind that there are up to 20 NFL teams that could potentially have a new starting quarterback in 2022, here are the offers Pryor made, as well as the names of the two QBs she added to the Steelers quarterback room.
1 Trade Offer
Pryor offered a 2022 third-round pick and a 2023 sixth-rounder for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and also offered to pay half of his 2022 salary, which is $24.2 million (according to overthecap.com). In ESPN’s simulation, Garoppolo is traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2022 second-round pick.
3 Offers to Unrestricted Free Agents
Pryor also offered a two-year contract ($10 million, with $6.5 million guaranteed) to unrestricted free agent Jameis Winston, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. But in the simulation, Winston’s representative chooses to take a more lucrative two-year deal from the New Orleans Saints.
Pryor also makes an offer for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Marcus Mariota, dangling a two-year deal worth $14 million (with $8 million guaranteed). But with Last Vegas Raiders starter Derek Carr getting traded to the Washington Commanders in the simulation, Mariota opts to re-sign with the Raiders, getting a fresh start of sorts with new head coach Josh McDaniels.
Finally, Pryor makes a two-year contract offer to Miami Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett—a two-year deal for $10 million, which gets accepted.
Pryor explains the rationale by saying: Brissett is “an intriguing candidate partly because of his mobility, something that both Mike Tomlin and owner Art Rooney II have emphasized as a priority in the next quarterback. Bringing him in also gives the Steelers the flexibility to draft a quarterback in 2022 or use him as a bridge option to get to a stronger 2023 or 2024 class.”
1 QB Drafted (No. 20 overall)
Unable to get a likely starter via trade or free agency, Pryor elects to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. With Pitt’s Kenny Pickett already off the board to the Carolina Panthers at No. 6 overall and Matt Corral going to the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 11, Pryor chooses Sam Howell (North Carolina), eschewing other options, including Malik Willis of Liberty.
“Because of his mobility and big arm potential, Howell is a fit for the Steelers. Brissett and Howell (and perhaps Rudolph) could compete for the starting job in camp,” she says, giving Tomlin the flexibility to groom Howell for as long as necessary.
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Personally, I don’t see the Steelers making an offer to a quarterback like Brissett, a former third-round pick with a 14-23 record as a starter and an 83.0 career passer rating. It’s doubtful he could outperform Mason Rudolph, who has been with the Steelers for four seasons and has a winning record as a starter along with an 80.9 career passer rating.
Nor do I see them giving up multiple draft picks for Garoppolo, who likely would win Pittsburgh’s starting job in 2022 but has just one year left on his contract.
As for the Steelers using a first-round pick on a quarterback, that’s certainly plausible, perhaps even likely—assuming they love one of the QBs available this year and he remains on the board when Pittsburgh’s turn comes up. At this point in the process, it’s still tough to get a good grasp of how the potential first-round picks stack up relative to one another, and who might still be on the board when Pittsburgh selects at No. 20.