PFF’s Best-Case Scenario For Steelers’ Offseason: Drafting QB Malik Willis Without Trading Up

As with any team, in any year of this era of the game of football, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ prospects for the 2022 season hinge largely upon how they are able to address the quarterback position this offseason in the sake of longtime starter Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. While they have a status-quo in-house option in Mason Rudolph, it’s widely expected that they will pursue alternatives.

There are several quarterbacks coming out in this draft class anticipated to be drafted in the first round, such as Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell, and Carson Strong. The name that has been most associated with the Steelers, however, has perhaps been Malik Willis out of Liberty.

For Pro Football Focus, who recently put together an article looking at the best and worst possible outcomes for each team this offseason, the outlet sees the chance of acquiring Willis in the draft without having to trade into the top 10 to get him as their best-case scenario. Anthony Treasch writes:

After dealing with a depleted arm and no mobility at quarterback the past few years, the Steelers’ brass is reportedly interested in Willis — a dynamic runner who also possesses the strongest arm in the class. Last year, Willis led the FBS in both rushing grade and big-time throw rate.

The only problem is the Steelers pick 20th overall, and early indications are Willis is going within the first 10 selections. While he boasts elite tools, he is still raw and has a long road ahead of him to get to franchise quarterback status. This makes a trade-up a very bold bet to make. The Steelers could possibly hold tight and at No. 20 and still land Willis, which is their best-case scenario.

The funny thing about the draft is that there always tends to be more players that people are certain will ‘never fall that far’ than there are spots to fall. I can guarantee you that you can easily find at least 21 players whom, according to various experts, will almost surely not be available to Pittsburgh at pick 20.

Somebody will be there, of course. But will it be a quarterback? We see almost every year that the position receives inflated value due to the immense importance of the position, so it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Willis is gone well before pick 20.

As for the worst-case scenario, Treasch outlines a situation in which a low-tier veteran is leading the offense for the Steelers. I suppose that Rudolph would qualify as one of these low-tier veterans, as it does not specify that such veteran had to have previously been a starter—though I suppose he was in 2019.

Out of all the top prospects coming out this year, I do think Willis best checks the boxes that head coach Mike Tomlin seems to be looking for in his next starter. I still say this, things will surely be interesting if he winds up in Pittsburgh. Whether that’s good interesting or bad, I’m not sure.

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