We’re in the heart of draft season, a time full of rumors and reporting that turns out to be inaccurate. But ESPN’s Todd McShay has a pretty solid source when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers interest in their next quarterback. McShay was on the most recent episode of the First Draft podcast. The show was dedicated towards the recent slate of QB workouts including Malik Willis’, who impressed at his Tuesday showing.
After discussing the workout, McShay relayed a conversation he had with Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze, who said Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have plenty of interest.
“One takeaway I got was. And he said, ‘listen, I don’t know where he’s going. Detroit has shown interest, Carolina is here, they’ve shown interest. But Mike Tomlin loves this guy,'” McShay said of his discussion with Freeze. “Even Mike said when we talked, we’d love to have him, we just don’t know if we can get him at 20.”
Prior to Willis’ workout, Freeze told reporters he met with three NFL teams. He didn’t disclose who those teams were, but it’s nearly a given one of them were the Steelers. For Pittsburgh and Willis, availability is the biggest hurdle. The odds of him lasting to #20 are not high given all the QB-needy teams in front of them: Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle, New Orleans, any darkhorse team, or any other club looking to trade up.
Drafting Willis may mean a Day 1 trade for the Steelers. Such a move isn’t one the team does often, just four times under Kevin Colbert, but they’ve proven when they want a player, they’re willing to go up and get them. Pittsburgh was in this exact same scenario in 2019, sitting at #20 and eyeing linebacker Devin Bush, who was projected to be off the board well before the Steelers’ pick. On draft day, they moved up ten spots to take him. If they’re willing to do it for a linebacker, they’d be willing to do it for a quarterback.
Still, Pittsburgh’s shown plenty of interest in the other quarterbacks in this class. Like Willis, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert attended Kenny Pickett’s, Matt Corral’s, and Desmond Ridder’s Pro Day sessions, putting them all in play in the first round. Pittsburgh would likely need to trade up for Pickett as well, while Corral and Ridder are more likely to be available at #20.
As the Steelers turn the chapter on the Ben Roethlisberger era, they’re clearly in the market to find his replacement in this year’s draft. And if they love Willis as much as Freeze says they do, Pittsburgh may make a move up for him come draft day.