There is no science to finding the next franchise quarterback. Football isn’t a science to much of anything, though the world’s brightest are working on the physics of Danny Smith’s gum-chewing. Mike Tomlin admits he doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to scouting quarterbacks. But he believes the most important trait can’t be quantified.
Speaking during his and Kevin Colbert’s annual pre-draft press conference, Tomlin talked about the most important trait a quarterback needs to have.
“I think that is the ultimate competitor’s position,” Tomlin told the gaggle of reporters who attended via the team’s YouTube channel. “And so those that run to and not from competition. Those that embrace competition and the intensity of it and the anxiety that may be associated with it. I think they have a leg up.”
No position is more important than quarterback and no position is looked to for leadership and command than the position. Being a tough quarterback doesn’t guarantee success but not being one almost always guarantees failure.
For those (like us) trying to read into that answer as clues for who the Steelers will draft, there isn’t much of a takeaway. All the top five QBs in this class could fall into that category. Though he transferred, Malik Willis took on the challenge of playing at Liberty behind an often overwhelmed offensive line and still led his team to success. Kenny Pickett chose to return to Pitt and elevated his play and the play of others this season, leading the Panthers to their first 11-win season in decades. Sam Howell is a tough customer who shouldered the load in 2021 after losing several top weapons. Desmond Ridder brought Cincinnati to prominence and the College Football Playoff, while few players demonstrated the toughness of Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, who battled through two ankle injuries and chose to play in his team’s bowl game.
So all five quarterbacks arguably remain on the table. Of course, Tomlin mentioned more conventional traits, ones that are a bit easier to find on tape.
“Obviously there’s some pedigree related things per the position. Arm, strength, accuracy, and so forth, but that’s either present or it’s not. The intangible quality associated with competition, I think is something that’s valuable.”
Ben Roethlisberger had those intangibles with his never-say-die mentality that allowed him and others to rise to the occasions in so many late-game situations. Though the position has evolved since Roethlisberger’s draft day back in 2004, those intangibles are one trait Tomlin, Colbert, and company would like to replicate if they select his replacement later this week.