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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Has Steelers Staying With QB At No. 20 Overall In Latest Mock Draft, Just A Different Name

As the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in Indianapolis Tuesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. timed the release of his mock draft 2.0 perfectly, allowing his latest mock draft to land Tuesday morning as the anticipation for this year’s combine reaches its peak.

Throughout the entire offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been tied to a number of names at the quarterback position through the draft and in free agency, and rightfully so, considering the Steelers are searching for a franchise QB for the first time in nearly two decades.

The last time Kiper Jr. released a mock draft this offseason, the longtime NFL Draft expert had the Steelers grabbing Ole Miss QB Matt Corral at No. 20 overall. This time, Kiper Jr. has the Steelers going quarterback once again, but it’s not Corral.

Instead, Kiper Jr. buys into the Steelers/Malik Willis hype, landing the boom-or-bust prospect with some of the best traits in the class in Pittsburgh as one of just three first-round quarterbacks coming off the board in the second version of his mock draft.

“Here’s a nice landing spot for Willis, whom I’ve mentioned will need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL. He didn’t have a ton of talent around him at Liberty and he was sacked an FBS-high 51 times last season. He shouldn’t be asked to play in Week 1 in September,” Kiper Jr. writes. “If he goes to Pittsburgh, he’ll compete with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins (and potentially another short-term veteran) and won’t be pressured to play immediately, though the Steelers aren’t going to rebuild in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.

“Willis is the most talented quarterback in this class, in my opinion, but he can be erratic with his accuracy. He has all of the tools to be successful, but he’ll need to be coached hard. If the Steelers don’t go with a signal-caller here, keep an eye out for offensive line.”

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire regarding Willis and the Steelers.

Pittsburgh would be a nice landing spot for the raw quarterback, one that would allow the Liberty product to sit and bide his time on the bench, developing under quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan without the pressure of seeing the field right away. Add in the fact that they wouldn’t need to trade up in this scenario to get him and it would make the selection all the better, in my opinion.

The only drawback with Willis right now from a Steelers’ perspective is what Kiper Jr. touched on with the talented passer: Erratic with his accuracy.

Just last week, Steelers’ outgoing General Manager Kevin Colbert discussed the most important trait a quarterback can have in the scouting process, with that being accuracy. Colbert, during a media session, said that accuracy — or lack thereof — is the at the top of his list when scouting a quarterback.

“Inaccuracy,” Colbert said in a transcript provided by the team. “I think if you study quarterbacks over history, accuracy at the collegiate level is usually a great indicator of accuracy at the professional level albeit at in a different game. A lot of the college game is leaking into our game so there’s more similarities than there have been in recent years. But I think that’s the one trait of a quarterback—again they’re all going to be different sizes, they’re all going to have different arm talent, they’re all going to have different athletic abilities. But if you ask me one thing that I think can identify a potentially tough quarterback it would be accuracy.”

Willis comes into the 2022 NFL Draft with the lowest completion percentage of the top six quarterbacks at 61.1%.

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