It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers’ General Manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin are searching high and low for a franchise quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft, based largely on the work they’ve done in the pre-draft process with Combine interviews and Pro Day trips.
Names like Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Liberty’s Malik Willis, Ole Miss’s Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, and North Carolina’s Sam Howell are all on the Steelers’ radar at this point in the pre-draft process.
How they land a quarterback is anyone’s guess at this point leading up to the process, whether that’s a trade up in the first round, sitting tight at No. 20, or trading back into the first round to jump ahead of the Detroit Lions at No. 32 overall.
According to Pro Football Focus’s Anthony Treash, the Steelers’ dream scenario in the draft is sitting tight at No. 20 overall and landing a quarterback without having to trade away future draft capital.
“Pittsburgh almost has to take a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Steelers probably aren’t going to be in position to get a top quarterback prospect in the 2023 class without initiating a rebuild, and the current quarterback room —which consists of Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins — isn’t going to cut it,” Treash writes. “It’s been made clear by several in the Pittsburgh organization that the team prefers to have a mobile signal caller, leaving quarterback Malik Willis as a prime target. The problem is that Willis is likely off the board by the time the Steelers pick at 20th overall, making it difficult for the team to obtain the Liberty product without trading up.
“While Willis has intriguing tools, he’s not worth mortgaging the future for. There are concerns about how raw Willis is as a passer, as he needs to work on his decision-making, pocket presence, accuracy, timing and inconsistency within his throwing platform,” Treash added. “He made strides in some of those areas last season, but there is still a long road ahead. Willis has an established floor due to his rushing ability — his 94.5 rushing grade in 2021 led FBS — but his passing potential is boom-or-bust. The best-case scenario is that Pittsburgh lands Willis with their own 20th overall pick but if they can’t, they shouldn’t trade up.”
While the opportunity to land WIllis at No. 20 overall becomes more and more of a stretch the closer we get to the NFL Draft. Though he is clearly the top target for the Steelers, based on the work they’ve done in the pre-draft process with meetings at the Senior Bowl, Combine and a heavy contingent of front office personnel at his Pro Day in Lynchburg in mid-March, the Steelers would seemingly need to trade up into the top 10 to acquire the high-ceiling quarterback that many believe is the top signal-caller in the class.
If the Steelers decide to not trade up for Willis and preserve future draft capital, they should be able to land a QB like Ridder or Howell at No. 20 overall, which would at least give them some comfort, considering the work they’ve put in on both QBs this draft process.
Ideally, Willis falls to No. 20 overall, and the Steelers land their man without moving future draft assets.