The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a question mark at starting quarterback since the team drafted Ben Roethlisberger No. 11 overall in 2004. But with Roethlisberger having announced his retirement, finding a new starter is the biggest question mark facing the organization this offseason.
If former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier had his way, he’d pass on all the quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft and make a run at an accomplished veteran like four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers. He indicated as much while appearing with the PM Team on 93.7 The Fan (Pittsburgh) on Friday February 11, but effectively admitted that acquiring Rodgers is probably unrealistic—financially and otherwise.
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Ryan Shazier: ‘Get Jimmy’
“To me, I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if we get Jimmy (Garoppolo),” offered Shazier, referring to the San Francisco 49ers starter, who has one year on his contract and is likely to be traded, as the Niners drafted quarterback Trey Lance No. 3 overall in 2021.
“Jimmy has been to multiple Super Bowls (and) he’s won Super Bowls,” added Shazier, before acknowledging that Garoppolo was merely along for the ride for two Tom Brady-led Super Bowl titles while with the New England Patriots between 2014-16.
“But then he also has the experience of winning consistently in the playoffs and has Super Bowl experience,” said Shazier about the former second-round pick, making reference to the fact that Garoppolo led the 49ers to the Super Bowl two years ago. “I think somebody like that could really help … because we have a solid team,” concluded Shazier, before excepting out the Steelers’ offensive line, which still needs plenty of work.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Steelers might try to swing a deal for Garoppolo, an eight-year veteran with a 33-14 record as a starter and a 98.9 career passer rating. Yet one expects that some other NFL team would offer the 49ers more in trade compensation, in part because the Steelers have only six picks in the upcoming draft, pending the addition of a compensatory pick, which is likely to be a fourth-rounder (for losing Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans).
Meanwhile, the prevailing sentiment is that the Steelers are looking to draft “firmly on the rise” Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis, who has been compared to former Steelers quarterback/wide receiver/running back Kordell Stewart, much to the chagrin of many Pittsburgh fans. That seems much more likely than the Steelers getting Garoppolo. And, for what it’s worth, the Steelers did use a first-round pick on a Liberty player once before, making them the only team in NFL history to have done so.
Also Shazier: Don’t Draft Pickett or Willis
But Shazier seems pretty well set against using a first-round pick on a quarterback in the forthcoming draft, even if it’s Kenny Pickett of the hometown Pitt Panthers.
“I think the quarterbacks in this draft are good, but I don’t think the quarterbacks in this draft are like ‘Hey, let me reach for this guy—let me go out of my way for this guy,’” he concluded.
That said, unless the Steelers trade for or sign a proven winner in free agency, the team is likely to go into the 2022 season with 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph as the starting quarterback. As of this moment, Rudolph is the only QB the Steelers have under contract for next season, having signed a one-year extension in March 2021—an extension that he called a “vote of confidence” on the part of the organization.
For his part, Rudolph has said he’s “confident” he will be a starting quarterback, even though he was drafted to be an upgrade over former backup Landry Jones, with anything beyond that a bonus, really.
Rudolph been compared to former Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell, who was a third-round draft pick in his own right. O’Donnell posted a 39-22 record as a starter between 1991-95 and led the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX.
Ryan Shazier: Serial Entreprenuer?
As for Shazier, he told the PM Team that he is now spending most of his time running two businesses—not to mention the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation—even going so far as to describe himself as a “serial entrepreneur.”
Shazier announced his retirement from football in September 2020. In November 2020 he released his memoir, ‘Walking Miracle,’ in which he details his recovery from a spinal contusion suffered during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in December 2017, an injury that left him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
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