We’ve talked a ton about the quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft pool. Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett are the top names most often linked with the Steelers. Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, UNC’s Sam Howell, and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder get far less love, but even they’re mentioned as potential options. But there’s one name we might be overlooking.
What about Nevada’s Carson Strong?
It’s understandable why he really hasn’t been considered for the team. All the Steelers have done for the last eight months is talk about the importance of mobility. Strong, he doesn’t have it. He’s old-school. Tall, big, looking like a Ben Roethlisberger (not the backyard version, the “you can visibly tell my knees hurt while running” kind) or Matt Ryan-type of big, strong-armed quarterback. Strong also has a checkered medical history with long-term concerns over the health of his knees. All of those are fair, accurate points for why the Steelers wouldn’t pass.
But it leaves one question. Why were they at his Pro Day?
No, Mike Tomlin nor Kevin Colbert were there. But on a day where Pitt’s Pro Day was taking place and the Steelers had virtually every key member of their staff in attendance, Sullivan was nowhere to be found. As we discovered, he made the long trip out west to Nevada to watch Strong in-person.
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) March 22, 2022
Wondering if Steelers' QB coach Mike Sullivan is at Pitt's Pro Day like everyone else?
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) March 21, 2022
That has to mean something.
If Strong was truly off their board, they wouldn’t have sent Sullivan. If they knew his lack of mobility was a fatal flaw, he wouldn’t have gone. Even more importantly, if the medical information they received at the Combine took him off their board, then Sullivan wouldn’t have made that long trek while skipping Pitt’s important Pro Day.
A non-Steelers’ scout heading west is honestly a rarity. On the Pro Day trail, Pittsburgh doesn’t believe there’s land past the Mississippi River. I won’t pretend like it’s unheard of, Teryl Austin was at TCU a couple years ago, the late Darryl Drake once took a trip to Arizona State, but when they go, it’s to watch a specific guy they really like.
It’s not as if the team hadn’t already watched Strong in person. Their staff got eyes on him at the Senior Bowl, an event Sullivan attended. Clearly, Strong warranted a second look.
The only thing you could argue is that Sullivan went out there as a due diligence effort in watching all the top quarterbacks in this class to provide a baseline, Pro Day comparison. To compare what Sullivan saw at Nevada with Pickett at Pitt with all the others the team could/will go to throughout the week. Still, for Sullivan to make the trip that far, there’s some level of interest. Strong isn’t viewed as a Day 1 pick so not having Tomlin nor Colbert there isn’t necessarily a disqualifier either. Strong is a Round 2 candidate, so sending just Sullivan makes sense, especially with Pickett’s workout falling on the same day and Liberty’s session Tuesday.
Ultimately, do I think Strong will be the Steelers’ pick? The odds are pretty low. But as someone who tracks Steelers’ Pro Day movement at “Hey, you should really go outside” type of levels, Sullivan’s attendance raised my eyebrow. Willis, Pickett, and even Ridder may be higher on the Steelers’ list. But Strong, by Monday’s account, remains on the their board.