Liberty quarterback Malik Willis remains a hot commodity ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft, especially after a terrific pre-draft process featuring a strong week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, a terrific showing at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and a fantastic Pro Day overall in front of a packed house in Lynchburg, Virginia.
For many, the belief is that Willis will be the first quarterback off the board in the first round on April 28 in Las Vegas due to his sky-high ceiling and impressive traits overall. Though he’s still incredibly raw overall as a passer having played just two seasons in college with the Flames under Hugh Freeze, he’s the exact type of quarterback with the skillset he possesses that teams should bet rather large on.
That doesn’t mean the team that bets rather large on him in late April is the best landing spot for him. That’s where CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani comes in, attempting to identify the best landing spot for the dynamic signal caller. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers were at the top of Dajani’s board, right there with the Atlanta Falcons, which just so happens to be Willis’s hometown team.
Aside from Pittsburgh and Atlanta, Dajani identified the Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks as fits, though none of those came close to being as ideal of a landing spot for Willis as Pittsburgh.
“The Steelers may be the best potential landing spot for Willis. It’s true that Pittsburgh went out and signed Mitchell Trubisky in free agency, but it’s not like the Steelers committed to him for the long run,” Dajani writes. “He signed a two-year deal that made him the 29th highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, per Over The Cap. Hypothetically, I imagine Trubisky starts the season and then is replaced by Willis late in the year if things aren’t going according to plan. So, he will get a chance to sit a bit and watch/learn.
“Moving forward, Willis has a reliable young talent at running back in Najee Harris, an up-and-coming tight end in Pat Freiermuth, and a couple of talented receivers with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool,” Dajani added. “The Steelers are going to be competitive, but they can be contenders if they get the right quarterback play. The Steelers are a well-run organization that is searching for their new franchise quarterback for the first time in almost 10 years. They will consider drafting a quarterback in the first round, although will likely have to trade up from their place at No. 20 overall if they want Willis.”
What Dajani wrote has been the argument for a Willis/Steelers marriage from the get-go. Pittsburgh was always going to sign a veteran, bridge-style quarterback in free agency, and has been scouting quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft class very, very hard to date, making it very clear that the Steelers are likely to grab a signal caller in the first round later this month.
Sitting at No. 20 overall, that probably won’t be Willis, but the Steelers very clearly like the guy and have spent a considerable amount of time with him in Mobile, Indianapolis, and at his Pro Day. They aren’t shy in making it clear who they love and who they’re targeting.
Of course, to get Willis in the draft, they’ll have to be aggressive and move up for him. That will rub some fans within the Steelers’ fanbase the wrong way, but when it comes to the search for a franchise guy, if you identify someone you really like, go and get him.
We’ll see if that’s the case for the Steelers and Willis later this month, but of all the rumored landing spots for the popular quarterback, Pittsburgh is seemingly the best situation overall from a stability and supporting cast standpoint, as Dajani points out.