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: The Steelers will trade up tonight in the first round and go get their quarterback.
Explanation: If the Steelers do trade up in the first round this year, the only position they would trade up for is a quarterback, and the only players they would probably consider trading up for are Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett. While they may be willing to draft other quarterbacks in the first round, it would be at 20, or even in a trade-down scenario.
Malik Willis is their guy. Or Kenny Pickett is their guy. One of them is their guy. Or maybe either of them. If one of them makes it out of the top 10, the Steelers are going to jump up and get him, because they know a team like the New Orleans Saints could take one ahead of them.
The quarterback position rewrites the rules about how everybody conducts business. It doesn’t matter if the Steelers have only traded up in the first round once during Mike Tomlin’s tenure. They have never needed a franchise quarterback in his tenure before.
They need one now, and there is reason to believe that they see at least one of Pickett or Willis as a franchise-level talent. One that probably won’t be available at 20, or at least is too much of a risk not to make it there.
As I wrote earlier today, there are plenty of people who think the Steelers won’t even draft a quarterback in the first round. They are far from hellbent on it. Maybe if their quarterback of choice happens to slide to their natural pick, they’ll happily reach out their hands and grab, but they won’t go out of their way when there are talented linemen and defensive backs on the board. They signed Mitch Trubisky, so they won’t feel compelled to do something rash and trade up.
This is a team that isn’t one piece away from winning the Super Bowl, and this isn’t the draft class to land a sure-fire quarterback prospect. It doesn’t make a ton of sense for them to decide to make a big swing in this particular year beyond the desperation of not knowing how to move on from having a franchise guy, and feeling a compulsion to try to get one right away.