The Pittsburgh Steelers had their choice of literally every quarterback in this draft class when their turn came to pick in the first round last week. The fact that they wasted no time in bringing up their card with Kenny Pickett’s name on it makes it clear who was on the top of their board—and the fact that no other quarterback was even drafted until the third round was telling about how the rest of the league felt.
While Gerry Dulac hasn’t had the best track record in recent years in terms of accuracy of ‘informed’ speculation, he did note something interesting yesterday in his column reviewing the Steelers’ draft class. Noting almost in passing, he wrote that the Steelers had a first-round grade on three quarterbacks. He also wrote that “they were determined to take one”, though that feels a lot less concrete than stating that they had first-round grades on three quarterbacks.
I think we can safely assume that those three quarterbacks were Pickett, Malik Willis, and Desmond Ridder, though we also heard that they liked Matt Corral. But, again, it’s hard to know what of the many things that we hear over the course of the offseason to take seriously, and how close to the source they really are.
This sort of raises the question: if Pickett were taken, what would they have done? Would they have drafted Willis? What if Willis were taken, too? Would they have drafted Ridder? We can’t know unless we see their draft board.
As any regular follower should know by now, the way the Steelers set up their first-round board is that they hold a one-team mock draft, selecting as many players as it takes to get to their pick, making the on-the-clock decision a very simple one.
They simply select the player highest on the board that hasn’t already been drafted. They’ve already run through the simulation of every player they would take based on zero through 19 selections having been made in front of them. Clearly, Pickett was within the top 20.
And a remark that general manager Kevin Colbert said after the first day of the draft certainly seemed to indicate that there was more than one quarterback within that top 20. “We map it out and we get 20 guys lined up”, he said. “The quarterbacks were in that group”.
The 2022 NFL Draft marked the first time in decades that only one quarterback was drafted within the first two rounds. Although this was widely regarded as one of the weaker classes in years, it is still surprising that all of the other arms fell as far as they did.
It would be interesting to know what grade they had on Corral and Sam Howell—at least, assuming that Corral wasn’t one of the three quarterbacks they had a first-round grade on, in which case it would be interesting to know how they graded Ridder. But they consistently spoke highly of the class overall.