The NFL offseason is now officially underway, with the Los Angeles Rams’ star-studded roster eking out a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56. While many of the players will now head to a lush tropical vacation spot to unwind, the front offices of all 32 teams will now formulate their game plans when it comes to signing free agents, and the draft. In other words, it’s NFL mock draft season.
With the draft order now finally set, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ eyes were, to no surprise, laser-focused on the quarterback prospects at the Senior Bowl, and one in particular. Liberty’s Malik Willis was speculated to be the apple of the Steelers’ eyes in Mobile, AL, with several conversations taking place between him and coach Mike Tomlin, along with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and GM Kevin Colbert. There were even reports of the team speaking with Willis’ parents.
With that being said, it’s not hard to connect the dots between the team and player, and PFF’s latest mock draft is a reflection of that. They have the Steelers jumping up from the 20th pick to the 9th pick, which belongs to Denver. The Broncos may be willing to again trade with Pittsburgh, considering the two teams pulled off a draft night trade in 2019, which brought Devin Bush to the black and gold. PFF had this to say of the trade:
“The Steelers made their interest in Willis no secret at the Senior Bowl. He is immediately a Tier 1 rushing threat at quarterback and has all the tools needed to develop at the position. The Liberty signal-caller racked up an insane 11.0% big-time throw rate this past season.”
Willis would definitely check off a lot of boxes that the team has noted they desire in their next quarterback, but the most notable one is mobility. Willis rushed for 944 and 878 yards in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, respectively, and is reported to have ran the 40 in a blistering 4.37 in 2018 during his time at Auburn. He would truly add another dimension at the position that the team hasn’t seen since the “Slash” era, with Kordell Stewart.
However, with several holes to fill other than quarterback, namely the offensive and defensive lines, would it be a wise move to trade away the precious draft pick ammo that the team currently has? The team only has six picks in the upcoming draft, with a likely seventh coming in the fourth round via a compensatory pick for the loss of free agent outside linebacker Bud Dupree.
In order to acquire Bush in 2019, the team swapped its first round pick at 20, with the Broncos’ pick at 10. They also surrendered both their second and third round picks in that same draft. The intangibles of another trade would probably be a very similar asking price, considering the two teams are in almost the same first round draft slots as in 2019. Would it be a wise move for the team to potentially mortgage their future on a raw but talented passer in Willis? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.