Steelers Linked to Project QB Hyped for Edge on Kenny Pickett: ‘Not Even Close’

Kenny Pickett

Getty CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson linked the Pittsburgh Steelers to Day 3 quarterback prospect Spencer Rattler. Wilson hyped Rattler for "better physical tools" than quarterback Kenny Pickett.

There are several different ways the Pittsburgh Steelers could add quarterbacks this offseason to supplement Kenny Pickett. But based on how the Steelers organization has publicly addressed its situation behind center this offseason, the safest bet is the team considering more calculated, subtle additions rather than blockbuster moves.

If that’s truly the case, grabbing a quarterback on Day 3 of the draft is a possibility.

While making an appearance on 93.7 The Fan on February 20, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson discussed that possibility and connected the Steelers to South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler.

“I look at a guy like Spencer Rattler,” Wilson said on 93.7 the Fan. “Rattler has better physical tools than Kenny Pickett.

“It’s not even close.”

Rattler completed 68.9% of his passes for 3,186 yards, 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 2023. He threw for 10,807 yards in 48 college games.


Steelers Previously Floated as Landing Spot for Spencer Rattler

Wilson isn’t the first to link the Steelers with Rattler. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo suggested Rattler as a potential draft target for the Steelers on February 2.

“Rattler was a young phenom, throwing for 116 touchdowns on his way to becoming the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class,” Fittipaldo wrote on February 2. “Five years later, after a tumultuous college career, he’s clinging to his dream of playing in the NFL.”

Rattler starred as a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma in 2020. Heading into 2021, analysts hyped him to potentially follow in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Instead, Oklahoma benched Rattler for Caleb Williams, who is the front-runner to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL draft, after five games. Rattler then transferred to South Carolina.

In two college seasons with the Gamecocks, Rattler threw for 37 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

Although he underachieved during his college career, Rattler could attract NFL suitors this spring because of his physical tools.

“Rattler grades out as an early Day 3 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft, but he could feasibly rise into Day 2 range with a good offseason,” Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings wrote. “He profiles as a developmental QB with backup utility early in his career, but Rattler has the physical tools to potentially grow into a starter.

“As one would expect from a once highly touted recruit, Rattler has near-elite arm talent, concocted from a blend of hefty arm strength and diverse angle freedom. He’s a smooth off-platform thrower but also a sound mechanical QB inside the pocket, with good baseline accuracy.”


Steelers Plan With QB Kenny Pickett

If the Steelers re-sign Mason Rudolph, as they have expressed a desire to do, drafting Rattler would make a lot of sense.

Should Rudolph return, he would compete with Pickett for the starting job in 2024. Regardless of the competition’s outcome, Pickett and Rudolph would be Pittsburgh’s top two quarterbacks.

As the No. 3 signal caller, Rattler would offer long-term upside. Sitting behind Pickett and Rudolph, the Steelers could develop the mental side of Rattler’s game, hoping to one day pair it with his physical tools.

This strategy could conceivably also work with a different quarterback such as Ryan Tannehill or Sam Darnold competing with Pickett for the starting role.


The Pros and Cons of the Steelers Targeting Rattler

Of course, developing Rattler is easier said than done.

It’s rare for Day 3 quarterbacks to develop into Super Bowl contenders. The most recent example of that would obviously be Brock Purdy, who was a seventh-round pick in 2022.

But San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and his excellent offensive staff have played a huge hand in Purdy’s development. The Steelers can’t offer the same coaching staff support to their quarterbacks.

Purdy and Rattler aren’t really comparable young quarterbacks either. Purdy excels as San Francisco’s starter despite his lack of physical tools because of his quick mental processing.

Rattler didn’t display elite decision-making in college.

The Steelers drafting a quarterback on Day 3 could certainly be on the table. Whether it’s Rattler likely depends how the draft board unfolds in April.

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