With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The Steelers are set to be aggressive in landing a first-round quarterback next month.
Explanation: With Kevin Colbert in the general manager chair for the final time, staring down a division that now includes three Pro-Bowl quarterbacks under the age of 27, and with only Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Dwayne Haskins on the roster at the position, the pressure is on to find a long-term answer.
Whether rightly or wrongly, this is where we’re headed. The Steelers are setting themselves up to add their quarterback of the future next month, and they’ll likely do what they have to, short of trading up into the top five, in order to do it.
They’re in phase two of their offensive line rebuild. They added some rookies last year, now some veterans. Over the remainder of this offseason and into next offseason, they’ll probably add another two starters.
By then, they want a franchise quarterback already in place and ready to go. And we all know by now that their preference is probably Liberty’s Malik Willis, whom head coach Mike Tomlin was enamored with earlier this offseason. He has the highest upside in this draft by far, but he’ll need a year. He’ll have it, but no more than two years at most.
While it’s worth noting that the statement doesn’t imply the Steelers will be successful in landing their next quarterback, no matter how aggressive they intend to be, it’s not a foregone conclusion that they will take that approach.
In fact, I don’t expect that their overall assessment of this class relative to next year’s class will push them to making a ‘panic’ move, as Colbert warned about. They would probably have to trade up to get Willis, and the reality is, they don’t have the resources without demolishing their draft, which they can hardly afford to do (it’s not like they’re getting any comp picks next year unless Brian Flores lands a head coaching job).
The front office and the coaching staff understand that this is an incomplete roster beyond the quarterback position. And none of this year’s quarterbacks is worth selling out for. Would they draft Willis or Kenny Pickett if they fell into their laps? Likely, sure. But they’re not going to make a big trade up, something Tomlin’s only done once, and likely regrets doing.