The Athletic’s Mock Draft Has Steelers Take Malik Willis In First Round

We are now officially a little over 24 hours away from the annual NFL talent spectacle known as the draft. Many fan bases across the nation treat this time of year as almost the equivalent to a “kid on Christmas morning” type of feeling, holding out hopes that the brain trusts of their respective teams can add that one piece to put them over the top. For front offices, all the man hours spent traveling across the country, from the Senior Bowl in Mobile to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis to the pro days scattered nationwide, the end game is finally in sight.

For the Steelers, the writing was on the proverbial wall regarding the quarterback position ever since the clock hit 0:00 in the team’s 21-42 Wild Card loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in January. As #7 Ben Roethlisberger took his final snaps before riding off into retirement, the draft analysts were already busy connecting the dots between the team and one of the top QB’s in the ’22 draft. By now, we’ve all seen the hype between the team and Liberty’s elusive Malik Willis. Their affinity for him goes back a few months, and is probably the worst-kept secret in this draft. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire and looking at this from a pre-draft visitation standpoint, all the boxes are checked off for us. This is vital when looking back over previous draft selections. All of this seems to point to him as the team’s first round pick, which is exactly the direction Mark Kaboly went in his latest mock draft rendition, which was composed of various beat writers.

In selecting Willis, he writes:

“Outgoing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert always says that the way the organization runs, it can’t afford to lose when it comes to a first-round pick. That’s why the pick of Willis was anything but a slam dunk even though it didn’t require a move up in the draft. The Steelers haven’t hidden the fact that they put plenty of effort into scouting the quarterback class this year, but that doesn’t mean they are in first-round love with any of them. The quarterbacks this year are tough to evaluate, with not much consensus around the league about whether there will be four quarterbacks taken in the first round or none. The Steelers are going to stick to what they do, and that’s picking the best player left on their board on 20. With Willis available here, the Steelers can’t pass him up. He can learn for a year behind Mitch Trubisky and be brought along slowly to replace Ben Roethlisberger. Or they could just go with a defensive tackle and run it back again next year.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of this year’s QB crop, does it? The ending sentence is interesting as well, as that position is a need area of the team, with the defensive line quickly getting long-in-the-tooth. Also, if the team hopes to contend, they can’t field a run defense the likes of which we saw last season. Georgia’s massive Jordan Davis would fit the bill, but he may, as Tomlin said, be shaking hands with Goodell prior to the team’s pick.

That being said, everything seems to scream Willis is the pick, provided he’s there, as there are several QB-needy teams ahead of Pittsburgh, notably Detroit, Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans. As we tend to see every year, there’s always one or two teams that will reach on a player so that could throw off every mock draft to date. However, strictly looking at Willis based on the comments regarding QB mobility from team brass, the myriad of scouting visits and the infamous chicken wing dinner with coach Tomlin, the possibility of him being their first-round pick tomorrow evening is very real.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!