When it comes to the quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft and the Pittsburgh Steelers, don’t be surprised if Kevin Colbert and Co. are aggressive in chasing the QB they feel the best about.
As is well known at this point in the offseason and draft cycle, the Steelers need to find the next guy at quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger after an illustrious 18-year career. While the quarterback class ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft leaves much to be desired from a franchise QB perspective, there’s one guy the Steelers seem to be zeroing in on: Liberty’s Malik Willis.
On Wednesday, ESPN Draft Expert Todd McShay paired the two together in his mock draft 2.0, landing Willis with the Steelers after a quick trade up by the Steelers from No. 20 overall to No. 17, swapping with the Los Angeles Chargers. McShay did not write what the trade package from the Steelers to the Chargers to move up three spots included, but it’s clear he believes the Steelers have their eyes on the next guy at QB and will jump at the chance to get him.
“Kevin Colbert has been with the Steelers for 22 seasons — and has been their GM since 2010 — and saw them draft Ben Roethlisberger in 2004,” McShay writes. “Now that Roethlisberger is retired and Colbert is stepping down, I think he’ll want to leave the organization in a good place for the future. It already has the defense and a run game, and it was even a playoff team this past season. But the AFC North has some excellent quarterbacks, and the Steelers need an answer under center to keep contending.
“My top QB, Willis has the strongest arm in the class and can create outside the pocket, making tough off-platform throws look easy. He’s still developing, and he threw 12 interceptions last season, but the Steelers can build the offense around this dynamic passer.”
Willis is the guy in this class that you bet on, from a traits perspective. He’ll need some time to develop overall at the position as he’s pretty raw coming out of Liberty, but he has arguably the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class thanks to his rocket right arm and his blazing speed and ability to add a dynamic option to the rushing attack at the next level.
A move up from No. 20 to No. 17 shouldn’t cost much, in comparison to the 2019 trade that saw the Steelers move up from No. 20 to No. 10 with the Denver Broncos to land Devin Bush. And as has been said all offseason to this point: if the Steelers identify the QB that they believe in this class is the next guy, be aggressive and go and get him.
Coming off the board at No. 17, Willis is the second QB off the board in McShay’s mock draft behind Pitt’s Kenny Pickett at No. 11 overall to the Washington Commanders. One pick after Willis, McShay has the Saints drafting Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, and later has the Detroit Lions grabbing North Carolina’s Sam Howell at No. 32 overall, owning the Los Angeles Rams’ pick from the Matthew Stafford trade.
With the Steelers’ original pick at No. 20, McShay has the Chargers drafting Georgia hulking defensive tackle Jordan Davis, which could also be a guy the Steelers target in the middle of the defense to help fix a struggling run defense.