Earlier this week Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus (PFF) appeared on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to discuss the quarterbacks on display at the Senior Bowl. One of the QBs who is said to have attracted strong interest from the Pittsburgh Steelers is Liberty’s Malik Willis, who possesses an enviable combination of arm strength and running ability, not unlike a polarizing former Steelers starter from the Bill Cowher era.
“He’s got some high-end potential,” noted Palazzolo, while talking with The PM Team on Thursday, “and my colleague Sam Monson on the PFF NFL podcast has already pulled out a ‘slash’ comp—Kordell Stewart for Malik Willis.”
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‘Would You Take a Slash 2.0?’
That comparison prompted Andrew Fillipponi of The PM Team to query fans about how they would feel about Pittsburgh’s next starter being something akin to Stewart, who was a second-round pick in the 1995 Draft (No. 60 overall, Colorado) and played wide receiver/running back/quarterback for two years before becoming the team’s starting quarterback in 1997.
While some fans replied with an unequivocal yes—or at least a yes with a caveat or two, most Steelers supporters had a strongly negative reaction, much like this fan:
Others believe that Stewart was ahead of his time, and that if Kordell played today he “would be a star,” not unlike Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Another fan pointed out that accuracy was always an issue for Stewart, noting that he completed just 56% of his passes during his career and had more interceptions than touchdown passes.
Specifically, Stewart completed 55.8% of his career passes with just 77 touchdown throws against 84 interceptions, as per Pro Football Reference.
During his eight seasons in Pittsburgh, he completed 56.5% of his passes en route to a 46-29 record as a starter, with 70 touchdown tosses and 72 interceptions and a passer rating of 72.3. He also rushed for 35 touchdowns, including a memorable 80-yard touchdown scramble vs. the Carolina Panthers in 1996, while he was still very much in his slash role. But he did minimal damage with his passing, throwing a career high 21 touchdown passes in 1997. His next-best season came in 2001, when he was named to the Pro Bowl despite tossing just 14 TDs.
That’s why one Twitter user said he’d be interested in Willis, if he was three inches taller and got a chance to work with Josh Allen’s QB coach, a reference to the fact that questions about passing accuracy dogged Allen when he was coming out of Wyoming in 2018.
Malik Willis’ Highlight Reel ‘as Spectacular as Any QB in This Draft’
As for PFF’s take on the Liberty quarterback—who transferred from Auburn after failing to earn any significant playing time at the SEC school— Palazzolo had this to say:
“A lot of good vibes coming out for Malik Willis, who graded solid for us in college. Passing was just okay but one of the best rushing grades in the nation,” he began. “When you watch Malik Willis—his highlight reel, and I know a quarterback is not a highlight reel—but his highlight reel is as spectacular as any QB in this draft. When you just put on his best throws there is Josh Allen-like arm strength in there, there are some passes on the move that are just like 50 yards on a dime—just incredible….
“But there is some bad stuff there too,” he concluded. “Some of the basic stuff—accuracy and decision making and taking too many sacks … gotta get better.”
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