Did you guys know that a lot of people think the Pittsburgh Steelers really like Liberty quarterback Malik Willis? I certainly did. It’s only been repeated ad nauseum over the course of the past three months—and frankly, it’s highly likely to be true. Liking a player and managing to draft him, however, don’t always go hand in hand.
Still, the majority of late-coming mock drafts seem to have the Steelers not only landing Willis, but doing so without trading for him. We got two more in over the past couple of days making that same prediction, one from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and another from Michael Renner, one of Pro Football Focus’ chief analysts.
Florio’s mock draft is short and sweet, and writes simply about the Steelers getting Willis at 20:
They may trade up to get him. They quite likely don’t intend on having an extended gap between franchise quarterbacks, like they did before drafting Ben Roethlisberger.
Renner offers pretty much the same line of thought, but with a little more player context and a little less team context:
It may take a trade-up in the actual draft, but Willis seemed like the apple of Mike Tomlin’s eye this pre-draft process. Last season, the Liberty passer put up the third-highest big-time throw rate we’ve seen in our eight years of college grading.
If this were the Final Four and we were talking about brackets, the Steelers not taking Willis would probably annihilate 98 percent of the field in one fell swoop. It might be one of the most unified consensus beliefs about this draft heading into tonight.
It’s not as though there isn’t reason to believe the Steelers really like Willis. They have given every indication possible that they do. Sometimes when Mike Tomlin is describing his ideal quarterback, it sounds like he’s thinking specifically of Willis as he talks.
Pittsburgh, of course, is in need of a quarterback, or at least a franchise quarterback, following Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. They currently only have two on the roster in Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph, who are expected to battle for the starting job this summer.
Rudolph was their own third-round draft pick in 2018, regarding whom they basically came out and said they had a first-round grade on. His development certainly hasn’t down a first-round trajectory, but he is still here all the same.
Trubisky was a former second overall pick in 2017. He was the Chicago Bears’ primary starter his first four seasons, and posted a winning record, making a couple of playoff appearances. He spent last season as a backup to Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills on a budget contract. He signed a two-year, $14.25 million deal with the Steelers this offseason, which could rise to $27 million with incentives.