While the focus of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ future quarterback has been on the draft, free agency comes first. And to hear Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline tell it, the Steelers are targeting one of three veterans to add to their room prior to April’s draft.
Pauline briefly wrote about the Steelers’ draft and free agency plans in a column for PFN Monday.
“With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will be in the market for a quarterback. That market could extend to free agency as well as the NFL Draft. The team wants a mobile quarterback or at least a signal-caller that offers more mobility than Big Ben.
Word right now is Pittsburgh is targeting Malik Willis in the 2022 NFL Draft. And though I cannot confirm Pittsburgh is targeting Willis, I do know they like him an awful lot. As far as free agents, I am told they are targeting three signal-callers: Mitch Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston.
The combination of one of those three QBs plus selecting Willis in the NFL Draft would set the Steelers up both short and long-term.”
So three free agent names he’s focused in on: Trubisky, Bridgewater, and Winston. All three names with first-round pedigree but different career arcs since entering the league. Trubisky struggled in Chicago, though his offense and system did him no favors, and he spent 2021 with the Buffalo Bills as Josh Allen’s backup. He appeared in six games this season but attempted just eight passes, completing six, with no touchdowns and one interception. His career numbers don’t look bad, a 64% completion rate and 29-21 record, but his tape and play aren’t nearly as positive. After signing just a one-year, $2.5 million deal, he may be the cheapest of the three.
Bridgewater was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 and served as the team’s starter his first two years and was named to the Pro Bowl his sophomore season. But he suffered a horrific knee injury in 2016 that nearly ended his career. He came back in 2017 before signing with the New Orleans Saints, spot-starting there for two years. He spent 2020 with Carolina before signing with Denver in 2021, starting 14 games for the Broncos, throwing 18 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Turning 30 in November, he’d be a solid bridge option.
Winston has had a turbulent career with as many highs as lows. A turnover machine, he threw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for Tampa Bay in 2019 before signing with the Saints in 2020. After sitting behind Drew Brees for one year, he became the starter in 2021 following Brees’ retirement. Winston played well, throwing 14 touchdowns to just five interceptions but he suffered a torn ACL and MCL injury in Week 7, ending his season. His rehab has reportedly gone well though it’s unclear if he’d be ready for Week 1 and he certainly could miss spring workouts.
Trubisky and Bridgewater would bring some level of mobility to the offense while Winston generally wouldn’t, though he isn’t the statue Ben Roethlisberger was in the final years of his career. All three would be relatively cheap bridge options for the 2022 season and not long-term fixtures of the Steelers’ offense.
Pauline also references the team’s reported interest in Malik Willis. Willis may be the top quarterback in this draft, and if so, the Steelers will likely need to trade up from #20 to acquire him.