Speculation and debate on what the Pittsburgh Steelers will do are really heating up as we’re just five days away from the 2022 NFL draft (April 28-30).
For obvious reasons, all talks since the offseason began have been centered around quarterbacks. Depending on what side of the fence you’re on, quarterback is either an immediate need, a position Pittsburgh can visit late in the draft, or even one that can be delayed until the 2023 NFL draft.
Very few mock drafts have the Steelers selecting a non-quarterback position at No. 20 next week. While most draft pundits agree Pittsburgh will take a field general with their first overall pick, agreeing on who it will be is an entirely different story.
Early in the offseason, Pittsburgh’s own Kenny Pickett was the most-mocked quarterback to the Steelers. Then attention turned to Malik Willis. Suddenly now, it’s Cincinnatti’s Desmond Ridder. There’s no true consensus because these quarterbacks have been tough to evaluate — there isn’t a Trevor Lawrence/No. 1 pick among this bunch.
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Steelers Smoke Screen
“As the draft nears, the momentum that swung Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Malik Willis (Liberty) up the board seems to be swinging back the other way,” Miller wrote. “In conversations with league sources this week, one told me that Pickett to the Steelers at No. 20 is the only Round 1 quarterback on which he would bet.”
“It might just be a late draft-season smoke screen, but there is a lot of chatter about the Steelers not being sold on quarterbacks other than Pitt’s Kenny Pickett in this class,” wrote Miller. “The Steelers famously attended several pro days and had the top quarterbacks on their radar this offseason, but the rumors dominating the text lines this week have Pittsburgh potentially going offensive tackle in Round 1 if Pickett isn’t available.”
Ed Bouchette, who’s covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1985, says general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin aren’t smoke screen types. Pittsburgh has met multiple times with all six top quarterback prospects this offseason. They wouldn’t conduct all of that due diligence, attend Pro Days and invite players for pre-draft visits if they weren’t planning on selecting a quarterback at some point.
Because this class of quarterbacks is so lackluster, the biggest mystery of this draft is where the quarterbacks will land. Are teams that need one desperate enough to take a flier on one early? Outside of maybe the Carolina Panthers, all teams have more significant needs. Had the Steelers not signed a free agent quarterback, they’d certainly be lumped in with Carolina.
Which Mitch Will Pittsburgh Get?
The real unknown here is Mitch Trubisky. Pittsburgh wisely didn’t break the bank to sign him, so he offers tremendous upside. Still, it’s too early to say which Trubisky the Steelers will get: Mediocre Mitch or the Pro Bowl version that led the Chicago Bears to a 12-4 record — and the playoffs — in 2018.
If the Steelers select a signal-caller at No. 20 or trade up to grab who they feel is worthy and Trubisky has a 2018-type season, have they wasted the pick? Perhaps it could be viewed that way if that’s Pittsburgh’s direction.
The smartest move the Steelers could make is to wait on a developmental backup (Mason Rudolph is a goner after the 2022 season) in the late rounds. See what Trubisky can bring to the table. If he falls flat, there’s a much stronger class of quarterbacks declaring for the 2023 draft.