The train that is the NFL offseason and draft process continues to roll on at a fast pace towards the 2022 NFL Draft, and as that train rolls on, so too does the perceived connection between the Pittsburgh Steelers and dynamic Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
The Steelers haven’t tried to hide their affection for Willis, who brings a rocket arm and arguably the best mobility to the table at the QB position in the draft class. Though he still has plenty of developing to do, Willis has some of the best traits at the position in the draft class, and is exactly the type of QB teams should be willing to bet high on in today’s game, due to his arm strength, ability to extend plays with his legs and even add another element to the rushing attack with his speed and power.
While Pittsburgh continues to search high and low for the next franchise quarterback in the Steel City, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox writes that no matter what, the Steelers “must grab” Willis in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“While [Kenny] Pickett may be the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, Liberty’s Malik Willis may have the most upside,” Knox writes. “Willis might not be ready from Day 1, but he has plenty of arm-talent and the rushing ability to be a dynamic dual threat at the next level. The Pittsburgh Steelers need a new quarterback following Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, and Willis is already on Pittsburgh’s radar.
The Steelers have never had a losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin, and they can likely make do with a bridge quarterback in 2022—be it Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins or a free-agent veteran. This would give them the time to develop Willis much like the San Francisco 49ers did with Trey Lance in 2021,” Knox adds. “If Pittsburgh hopes to contend with high-level quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson in the AFC North, they need their own dynamic starter. Willis has the potential to be that guy.”
That last line from Knox is spot-on. Sure, Pickett is the safest quarterback in the draft from Day 1, and Howell might be the top choice for outgoing GM Kevin Colbert, Willis has the highest ceiling of them all.
How the Steelers get their hands on Willis in the draft remains to be seen, especially considering teams seem rather high on the Liberty star, with expectations having him coming off the board in the top 10. Would Pittsburgh trade away the necessary package to move up and get the non-Power 5 quarterback, all while expecting him to sit on the bench for much of his rookie season behind Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and possibly another veteran?
Colbert isn’t afraid to trade up and clearly wants to put the team in the best possible situation before he hands over the reins to the franchise’s roster. Is Willis that part of that best possible situation? From the outside looking it, that sure seems to be the case from reading the tea leaves and watching the interactions in Mobile.