The Pittsburgh Steelers were majorly represented at every single major quarterback prospect’s Pro Day this year. They took them out to dinner. They met them at the Combine, and any other opportunity they’ve had. This week, they’re starting to bring them all into the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for official pre-draft visit.
“I still do not think that it is super likely that the Steelers take a quarterback at 20”, however, NFL reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala said on 93.7 The Fan yesterday, however. While she acknowledged that they are doing their due diligence, she has maintained for some time now that their first pick will be a position other than quarterback.
“I’m just saying, I don’t know that it’s out of the realm. I’m hedging, but I don’t know that it’s out of the realm of possibility to see four, indeed, go in the top 20”, she said about a likely run on the quarterback position, as we see nearly every year. “I also think it’s possible that they don’t. But I’m still not buying that the Steelers are drafting a quarterback”.
Pittsburgh is in the market for a new quarterback following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger after 19 seasons with the team. While they retained Mason Rudolph on the roster, and added former second overall draft pick Mitch Trubisky via free agency, they are certainly paying more attention than they have in decades to the position.
For the most part, focus has centered on Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, whom many believe has the most upside of all the quarterback prospects in this class, even though he is not expected to come out of college as an NFL-ready starter due to his lack of experience playing the position.
Feelings about this draft class have pretty consistently been lukewarm overall, but that has rarely stopped teams from reaching quarterbacks in the first round. The only other weak draft class I can think of in recent memory that saw the position actually slide was 2013, when E.J. Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round, Geno Smith sliding to the second.
So if the Steelers don’t draft a quarterback with their first pick, who will they draft? For a long time, Kinkhabwala was convinced that it would be a defensive player, but now she believes with the departures at the position, “I think you could see a wide receiver taken there”.
Pittsburgh saw JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud all leave in free agency last month, leaving them with only Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as prominent players from last season’s roster. They did sign Gunner Olszewski, who is primarily a return man, and they also return Cody White, Anthony Miller, and Steven Sims.
The Steelers have not used a first-round pick on a wide receiver since 2006 when they did so on Santonio Holmes. Coming off of a Super Bowl win, they traded up to 25 to get him. Before Holmes, they drafted Plaxico Burress eighth overall in 2000, which remains their highest draft pick since 1989. But they may have to go higher if they do indeed intend to come away with their quarterback of choice later this month.