If there’s one thing we’ve learned so far in the pre-draft process, the Pittsburgh Steelers are targeting a quarterback in the first round rather heavily.
So far, the Steelers have sent the house to the Liberty, Ole Miss, and Cincinnati Pro Days to see quarterbacks Malik Willis, Matt Corral, and Desmond Ridder, all of whom fit exactly what the Steelers are looking for in the next franchise quarterback post-Ben Roethlisberger: mobility, big arms and a good amount of starting experience.
Knowing what the Steelers’ brass have done on the Pro Day circuit to date, NFL.com’s Chad Reuter dropped an interesting four-round mock draft Friday, seeing the Steelers make a big move overall to get a QB they clearly covet.
That quarterback? Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder.
Reuter has the Steelers trading up to No. 12 with the Minnesota Vikings to acquire Ridder, swapping picks with the Vikings and giving Minnesota a 2023 first-round pick, while also swapping Day 3 picks, which is very similar to what the Chicago Bears gave the New York Giants to move up from No. 20 to No. 11 last year to draft Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
Desmond Ridder rolls out and heaves a 65-yarder on target pic.twitter.com/tz4Ora2Pr8
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) March 24, 2022
“The Steelers make a move to secure their quarterback of the future by making a deal with the Vikings that’s similar to what the Bears gave to the Giants last year, sending away their 2023 first-round pick and swapping Day 3 selections,” Reuter writes. “Ridder has a tall pocket presence but also possesses the athleticism to make plays outside the pocket.”
Ridder is arguably the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft class, and is currently ranked as one of the top QBs in the class by Pro Football Focus. Though he wouldn’t need the time to sit and develop like Willis or North Carolina’s Sam Howell would, Ridder would give the Steelers a legitimate piece at quarterback moving forward, one that could push Mitch Trubisky down the stretch in 2022.
Desmond Ridder's 131.4 Passer Rating on 20+ yard throws led college football 🎯pic.twitter.com/rLrimNN3D3
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 23, 2022
Following the trade up to No. 12 in the first round, Reuter has the Steelers doubling down on offense in the second round, grabbing North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson at No. 52 overall.
Here’s what our own Tyler Wise had to say about Watson in our draft profile on the NDSU star: “Christian Watson is an extremely intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams on day two. He’s your prototypical height, weight, speed receiver that makes offensive coordinators salivate watching their film. He reminds me a ton of Martavis Bryant coming out of Clemson and think he’ll be used similarly in his first few years in the league. He can be a plug-and-play Z receiver responsible for the front side go’s and backside posts in the offense that you can take an occasional deep shot to. However, Watson is much more complete of a “football player.” He can help in you all phases of the game and the more creative you can be the better when it comes to Watson. A coordinator and quarterback will be very happy with whoever ends up with the North Dakota State product to throw to on Sundays.”
Following the selection of Watson in the second round, Reuter has the Steelers going to the defensive side of the football in the third and fourth rounds, grabbing Maryland safety Nick Cross at No. 84 overall, and then grabbing Penn State EDGE Jesse Luketa at No. 138 overall.
Here’s what our own Tom Mead had to say about Cross in our draft profile on the Maryland safety: “Cross as good size and speed and experience playing on different levels of the defense. He was uses deep in multiple coverages, in Man coverage on tight ends and as a box defender. He has solid ball skills in Man coverage and can stay in phase. He’s a good wrap up tackler and plays under control when coming from deep or filling in gaps. Areas to improve include understanding of route combinations, adding more ball production and his angles to the ball on the outside.”
As for Luketa, we’ll have a draft profile on the Penn State star early next week, especially after linebackers coaches Brian Flores and Jerry Olsavsky were present at the Penn State Pro Day Thursday.