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Needing To Find ‘Long-Term Answer’ At QB, Fast-Rising Prospect Identified As Steelers’ Best Draft Fit By PFF

After signing veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky on the first day of the legal tampering period in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers are seemingly set at the position for at least the 2022 NFL season, having added a guy with a ton of starting experience to a room already featuring Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.

However, the move to add Trubisky does not mean the Steelers won’t add to the position in the 2022 NFL Draft, and based on the Pro Days that head coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert — not to mention the likes of Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt (the presumed next GM), offensive coordinator Matt Canada, and QB Coach Mike Sullivan — have attended to date, there’s a great chance the Steelers grab a quarterback in next month’s draft, especially on Day 1.

Knowing that, and knowing some of the holes that remain on the roster and in the starting lineup, Pro Football Focus’s Ben Linsey — who projects the Steelers to have six open spots in the starting lineup as of now (QB, slot WR, LG, C, RG, S) — believes that Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder is the Steelers’ best draft fit for the team’s biggest need.

Of course, Tomlin dined with Ridder ahead of the Cincinnati Pro Day last week, and also had the chance to speak with him at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl and the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, making the connection with the Bearcats’ star all the more stronger.

“The Steelers’ interest in Malik Willis has been one of the draft’s worst-kept secrets, much like their interest in Najee Harris last season. The main difference in this year’s draft is that Willis isn’t likely to fall to their first pick at 20th overall with teams such as the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks all holding top-10 picks. Willis’ tools have made him the presumptive favorite to be the first quarterback to come off the board,” Linsey writes. “Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have also done their due diligence on Ridder, who has a better chance of being available at their original pick spot. Some, including PFF’s lead college football analyst Anthony Treash and Bleacher Report’s Nate Tice, have Ridder as QB1 in this year’s class. 

“Ridder’s testing numbers highlight his explosive athleticism, and there’s also a case to be made that he’s the most “pro-ready” quarterback prospect in this year’s draft due to his ability to work through progressions and make sound decisions. His biggest issue has been accuracy, but there were signs of that improving last year at Cincinnati. Ridder’s accurate pass rate jumped from 58.3% in 2020 to 63.6% in 2021 despite his average depth of target coming in at over a full yard further downfield last year than in 2020,” Linsey added. “Pittsburgh needs to find its long-term answer at quarterback in a division featuring Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. Ridder could be that and is worth taking a chance on in the first round.”

That may not be very enticing to read for some readers of the site, but Ridder is arguably the most pro-ready quarterback in the class, and would provide a lot of what the Steelers are looking for in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, including mobility, improved accuracy and leadership, having piloted the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff in 2021 as the first-ever non-Power 5 program to crack the top four.

Ridder is not as flashy as Malik Willis and isn’t a household name like a Kenny Pickett, but he’s arguably better than both and could be had in the middle to late portion of the first round overall.

Playing in a division like the AFC North that is now loaded at quarterback with the likes of Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson, it has become that much more paramount that the Steelers find their next guy at QB, and find him fast without risking falling too far behind overall.

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