After beginning the earliest wave of early 2022 mock drafts with a flurry of quarterbacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers, recent mocks have found other positions for the Steelers to focus on with their first pick, instead. A lot of those were offensive tackles, but defense got some attention with edge rushers and cornerbacks mentioned as options.
This week’s roundup is a unique one: Instead of a single writer putting a mock together, the staff at Pro Football Network used their mock draft simulator to run through the first round of the 2022 Draft, with the order determined by a reverse of the Vegas odds for overall finish this season. That order slotted the Steelers 18th, but it didn’t stop the simulator and staff from turning the focus back to the most important position, and selecting Liberty QB Malik Willis for the franchise. The site wrote:
“The days of Ben Roethlisberger owning the AFC North is over. The Steelers have not found a successor nor needed to for the last 17 years. Still, as Big Ben enters his 18th season, it’s time for the torch to be passed on to the next Pittsburgh signal-caller. Despite picking at 18 in this 2022 NFL Mock Draft, the Steelers can select that player in Malik Willis. The Liberty QB torched his opponents last season to the tune of 3,194 total yards and 34 touchdowns.”
Willis remains a highly polarizing prospect among a considerable group of passers being viewed as potential first-round picks. The small-school star is the unquestioned top dual-threat QB among potential first-rounders at this moment, with athleticism the Steelers haven’t had at the QB position since Kordell Stewart. But Willis needs significant development as a passer, with accuracy issues to fix and improvements needed in his decision making.
Profiled by Jonathan Heiritter during the Depot’s summer scouting series, Willis offers a unique type of quarterback for a franchise that, stated in PFN’s explanation of the pick, has had nothing but stability under center for almost 20 years, but is about to lose that anchor without anyone present to replace him. Whether the Steelers would select him in particular over passers more similar to Roethlisberger, and adjust their offense as a result to best utilize his skills as a runner, is the question.
Willis was the third and final QB taken in PFN’s mock, behind UNC’s Sam Howell and Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler with picks 1-2. Among the other options on the board at the position were Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, USC’s Kedon Slovis, Nevada’s Carson Strong, and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.