With the 2022 new league year, the questions will be plenty for quite a while, even as the Pittsburgh Steelers spend cash and cap space and use draft picks in an effort to find answers. We don’t know who the quarterback is going to be yet—even if we have a good idea. How will the offensive line be formulated? How will the secondary develop amid changes, including to the coaching staff? What does Teryl Austin bring to the table—and Brian Flores? What will Matt Canada’s offense look like absent Ben Roethlisberger?
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Drafting a quarterback in the first round this year would in all practicality take the position off the Steelers’ first-round board in 2023.
Explanation: The Steelers more than arguably any other organization in football believe in stability, and not rushing to judgment. If they do draft a quarterback this year, they are more likely than most teams not to rush out and draft another one that they have a clearly better grade on next year before knowing how this year’s draft pick will work out.
Look, the 2018-2019 Arizona Cardinals don’t happen very often, when they drafted Josh Rosen 10th overall and then the following year took Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. For starters, they fired their head coach and brought in a new one for 2019. And having the first overall pick completely changes the ballgame.
No matter how bad the Steelers could realistically be in 2022, they’re not going to be bad enough to have the first pick in the draft. They likely won’t even be within a trade’s striking distance of jumping all the way up to one to ensure that they could get any quarterback that they want.
Aside from the reality that teams almost never draft quarterbacks in consecutive first rounds, it’s just a matter of the Steelers being the Steelers. Look how long Mason Rudolph’s been around and at least been spoken of as a theoretical potential starter.
If Pittsburgh drafts Desmond Ridder or Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis this year, he’s probably not even going to start many games, if any, so they won’t even have much of an evaluation on him. Even if Bryce Young looks like the next Patrick Mahomes and they’re in a position to draft him in 2023, they’re not going to.
You live through your mistakes, and the Steelers made a lot of mistakes between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, starting with passing on Dan Marino. The quarterback position also only continues to get more and more important.
You never stop looking for a franchise quarterback until you’re sure you have one. Unless a quarterback they draft this year has a really good rookie season, which is extremely unlikely since, again, they’re unlikely to even play much, then they’re at least going to look hard at next year’s class, and the quarterbacks will be on their board, even if they’re not in a position to draft one.
This is not saying they will draft Bryce Young in 2023 even if they draft Malik Willis in 2022. It’s about if they would give it serious consideration, whether they are in a position to be able to draft him or not, if they draft Willis.
The answer to that is yes, they would consider drafting a star quarterback prospect in 2023 who has a better grade coming out of college than the one they drafted this year, if that is how the scenario plays out. Because, again, you don’t stop looking for a franchise quarterback until you know you have one. And they won’t know they have one by the time the 2023 NFL Draft hits.