It can often be fun to look back at the draft class that just was and do a “re-draft” of sorts, especially this past NFL Draft that featured potential franchise-altering quarterbacks in Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and more.
As we al know, the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed put at No. 24 overall and grabbed top running back Najee Harris from Alabama in the first round, addressing what Pittsburgh believed was a glaring hole in the backfield. Now though, revisionist history from former NFL quarterback David Carr has the Steelers making a big splash in the first round of his 2021 NFL Re-Draft, grabbing a potential future franchise quarterback, trading up for quarterback Justin Fields.
“What are the Steelers going to do when Ben Roethlisberger retires, which is inevitably just around the corner? As my colleague Aditi Kinkhabwala pointed out in a tweet earlier this week, Pittsburgh’s options on the roster beyond Roethlisberger aren’t especially inspiring,” Carr writes. “They can’t be confident turning to Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. They can’t. I would have loved to see the Steelers make a splash trade in Round 1 of the draft (like the Bears did) to move ahead of the Panthers at No. 8 and nab quarterback Justin Fields. The rookie has a great understanding of the game, excels as a passer and runner and can transcend the X’s and O’s. He has made some big-time throws, even in the midst of a humbling rookie campaign in Chicago, and never panics. This is the type of player who’d fit right in with the likes of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and friends.
“The Steelers need a quarterback who can take them all the way. Fields would’ve been the right man for the job, well worth the precious draft capital Pittsburgh would have parted with to move up from No. 24 overall. This pair would’ve been a slam dunk.”
The pairing certainly could have been a slam dunk, especially after seeing the way Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin interacted with Fields at Ohio State’s Pro Day in early 2021.
Fields obviously went No. 11 overall to Chicago, a team the Steelers beat just three weeks ago at Heinz Field in a career performance from Fields. To even have a shot at acquiring Fields, the Steelers would have had to do something similar to what the Bears did and trade away two first round draft picks and two fourth round draft picks just to have a shot at nabbing Fields in the first. Moving into the top 10 to get ahead of Carolina at No. 8, like Carr proposes, would have been even more expensive than the haul that the Bears traded away to get to No. 11.
Just one year after being without a first round draft pick, and in clear win-now mode with Ben Roethlisberger’s career nearing the end, it was a real stretch to even imagine general manager Kevin Colbert trading away a future first to grab a rookie quarterback that would have started the season on the bench behind Roethlisberger, and likely wouldn’t have had much of an impact on the 2021 season as a whole.
Is that a poor way of looking at acquiring talent at the most important position in football? It certainly could be, but that’s the way the Steelers have operated for decades.
Re-drafts are fun and all, but the Steelers are in great shape right now with Harris in the backfield, Pat Freiermuth at tight end, cap space opening up coinciding with Tomlin making it known he wants a veteran quarterback after Roethlisberger, and key players locked up on long-term deals moving forward.