NFL Draft

Discussion: Should Pittsburgh Consider Taking QB Sam Howell If Available?

It has often been said that the quarterback position is the most important position in all of professional sports. If that is the case, as the Pittsburgh Steelers, wouldn’t you want to have more bites at the apple?

GM Kevin Colbert made it clear in the pre-draft press conference that they feel the team’s first three draft picks must become starters in order for the draft to be successful in their eyes. Over the first two days of the draft, the Steelers have selected the presumed future face of the franchise with QB Kenny Pickett. They also selected Georgia WR George Pickens who figures to play often in three WR sets in his rookie year and either replace Diontae Johnson should he walk in free agency in 2023 or unseat Chase Claypool as one of the two primary receivers on the field.  Pittsburgh closed out Day Two of the draft by selecting DL DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M who I profiled for the site months ago as a tweener that brings a lot of traits and tools to the table in terms of his ability to rush the passer, but still needs to get stronger as a base end at stopping the run.

Looking at their first three picks, I can firmly say that Colbert likely accomplished his mission of adding three players that should be able to become starters sooner rather than later in Pittsburgh. Now, heading into Day Three of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers will likely look to address the needs of depth on the roster. They can stand to add another strong safety behind Terrell Edmunds who re-signed for a one-year deal. A backup outside linebacker or inside linebacker would make sense. Fortifying the offensive line or adding another nickel corner also fit the bill.

The question is, do these positions trump the value and need of potentially adding another quality signal caller to the roster? UNC QB Sam Howell remains on the board after the first three rounds of the draft, and regardless of what the perception was of him as a prospect, the value of a potential franchise QB sitting there in the fourth round is hard to ignore.

I personally was one of the higher guys of the Steelers Depot crew on Howell, seeing him in a similar mold as Baker Mayfield coming out a couple years ago, but also have seen glimpses of a poor-man’s Russell Wilson in his game given his size, mobility as a passer and ability to create as a runner, his arm talent to hit all quadrants of the field, his deep ball accuracy, and the upside to continue to develop as only a true junior.

I recognize that Howell is by no means a finished product as his play dropped off from 2020 to 2021, showing signs of lack of pocket presence and overall awareness of the rush, bouncing around in the pocket, patting the football before throwing, and a tendency to have some passes sail on him at times. However, he was widely-regarded as one of the top, if not the best QB prospect in the class prior to the start of the 2021 campaign where he was recognized as All-ACC Second Team in 2020 and a 2019 Freshman All-American.

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: North Carolina QB Sam Howell

Obviously, Howell would have to fall to the Steelers next selection at #138 overall in the fourth round to even possibly consider taking him. That may come off as unlikely given the Seahawks, Colts, and several other teams may take him before then. Still, this draft has shown that crazier things have happened, seeing the likes of Malik Willis, Demond Ridder, and Matt Corral all fall to the third round.

Pittsburgh potentially selecting Howell at #138 overall could make sense from several aspects. First, they would be selecting a player that they have done extensive research on, having formally interviewed him at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, having GM Kevin Colbert attend his Pro Day and be on-campus several times to watch him play live, and also bring him in for a pre-draft visit.

Second, they would be adding yet another option to the QB room that could be a piece to the puzzle of finding the long-term successor for Ben Roethlisberger. It’s long been stated that if you don’t have a franchise QB, you keep searching until you find one. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot had a similar though process in his final mock draft, selecting SDSU QB Chris Oladokun in the seven round providing the following statement:

Quarterback is the most important position and the Steelers need their room to be as strong as possible. So while this is an unusual move you probably won’t like, I could see Pittsburgh sandwiching their draft with the position given its weight.

I agree one hundred percent with Kozora’s statement that QB is the most important position in the league, and if the opportunity presents itself, why wouldn’t you take a QB in the fourth round that many had late first/early second round grades on to further strengthen your QB room and chances of finding that long-term answer?

Selecting Howell at #138 overall would be a savvy move financially, as the 138th pick in last year’s draft, OT Josh Ball, signed a four-year deal worth $3.98 million via OverTheCap. Having a rookie Qb on a deal paying out slightly less than $1 million per year could be considered highway robbery in today’s NFL, giving Pittsburgh a young, cost-effective option at the position with control over the next four years. This would allow Pittsburgh to likely shop around QB Mason Rudolph and see if they could move him for any draft capital today or future picks in 2023 with them not expecting to rely heavily on the comp pick formula next offseason.

This move would also Pittsburgh to enter the season with an established veteran in Mitch Trubisky and two promising rookies in Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell. Much like Kozora mentioned in his mock draft, Washington did this same scenario back in 2012, selecting Robert Griffen III #2 overall and followed up by selecting Kirk Cousins in the fourth round at #102 overall. The move proved to be a wise investment for Washington, having Cousins take over for Griffen once he got hurt and became a productive starter for them for several seasons before inking a lucrative deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

Drafting Howell wouldn’t only allow Pittsburgh to possibly move on from Rudolph who is only signed for 2022, but possibly allow them to do the same with Trubisky after the 2022 season should Pickett and Howell show enough growth by then. This would provide Pittsburgh a young, cheap QB room with two guys that have been widely recognized as two prospects that could develop into franchise-caliber quarterbacks.

Whatever you personal thoughts on Howell as a prospect may be, the possibly of being the pick is something the Steelers should at least consider. There are several positives that can come from him being drafted as mentioned earlier, and the investment presents a low-high/potentially high reward scenario, whether that be as a long-term quality backup, a guy that can come in to start if Pickett/Trubisky gets injured, or potentially a great value as a player that is still developing into what he can be as an NFL quarterback.

You can point to addressing other areas of need like backup EDGE or OT, but with Pittsburgh facing the most uncertainty at the QB position that they have in nearly 20 years, I would argue that backup/developmental QB may be the wisest investment this team could make.

What are your thoughts on QB Sam Howell? Do you think that the Steelers should consider drafting him if available. What pros or cons do you see from potentially selecting him at this pint of the draft? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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