The phrase “hindsight is 20/20” usually refers to the fact that it is usually easier to analyze and evaluate events after they have already happened. That could be the case as we sit here today regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their current QB situation.
The Pittsburgh Steelers went into the 2022 NFL Draft giving us all the notion that they were going to take a quarterback, and likely in the first round at that. They went to every top passer prospect’s Pro Day, interviewed all of them at the Combine, and brought them in for pre-draft visits. Their intentions were clearly known, and they had their pick of the litter when all the QB prospects were on the board when the draft got to the 20th overall pick.
Pittsburgh decided to stay “in-house” and select the guy they knew better than anyone else: Pitt QB Kenny Pickett. Much has been made about Pickett’s “lack of ceiling” as well as his average mobility and arm strength, but he was the safe option for Pittsburgh as Pickett was dubbed the most pro ready QB in the draft class, being a seamless fit in OC Matt Canada’s offense.
Pittsburgh likely didn’t know that all the other QBs would drop into the third round, seeing the likes of Desmond Ridder, Matt Corral, and Malik Willis go two rounds after they selected Pickett. Whether it would have been the smart move to wait and take the value, Pittsburgh ultimately stood on their conviction and took their guy.
But…who doesn’t like a game of hypotheticals?
Recently, the Carolina Panthers traded for Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield, successfully fulfilling his wishes to get out of Cleveland after the ties with the organization were severed when they pursued and successfully acquired QB Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. Seeing as Cleveland had no leverage, they ended up trading Mayfield for a 2024 conditional fifth-round draft pick, which could turn into a fourth-round pick if Mayfield logs enough snaps as the starter. On top of this, Cleveland ate $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary for 2022 with Mayfield taking an additional $3.5 million pay cut, leaving Carolina having to pay Mayfield only $5 million to be their likely projected starter this season.
Carolina also went about adding to the QB room via the draft, where they picked Ole Miss QB Matt Corral with the No. 94 overall selection, which they got from the Patriots in exchange for the 137th overall pick (fourth round) and a 2023 third-round selection. Corral was dubbed for having a quick release, NFL arm talent, and the mobility aspect you desire from the QB position despite playing in an RPO-heavy offense and boasting a slight frame for the NFL.
Now I propose the hypothetical: would you have preferred the Pittsburgh Steelers staying put with their selection of Pickett in the first round, or sitting pat and selecting Corral with their own third round pick at 84th overall and trading a future fourth/fifth round selection for Mayfield?
Obviously, there are plenty of considerations that need to be accounted for. First, the likelihood that the Browns would be willing to part with Mayfield in the division to Pittsburgh likely would be low, even if they are desperate sellers. Still, given the means that they did part from him, the possibility isn’t completely unthinkable. While many consider Mayfield a sub-par NFL QB to this point in his NFL career, he was the Browns’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma. For his NFL career to date, Mayfield has thrown for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions for an 87.8 passer rating. He also led Cleveland to a victory over the Steelers in the playoffs two seasons ago.
Pickett’s 2021 season was one for the record books, leading his team to the ACC Championship crown as he broke out in a way like Joe Burrow back in 2019 in his final season at LSU. However, Corral had a solid 2021 season as well for Ole Miss as he played and started in 13 games as a redshirt junior, completing 262-of-386 passes (67.9%) for 3,349 yards and 20 TDs with five INTs while adding 152 carries for 614 yards and 11 scores on the ground. In our 2022 NFL Draft QB Rankings, the contributors here at Steelers Depot had Corral collectively over Pickett when are rankings were combined and averaged out.
This leads me to the question: would yinz have preferred drafting Kenny Pickett in the first round, or parting with a 2022 third-round pick as well as a 2024 fourth/fifth round selection for the package of Corral and Mayfield? Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 like mentioned above and we live in a reality where this scenario never took place. However, from a roster construction standpoint, it is interesting to consider whether to stick to your guns in terms of Pickett being the guy, or trade in that option for a proven NFL starter as well as another prospect to have more bites at the apple.
What are your thoughts on the Panthers trade for Baker Mayfield? Would that be a deal that you would have liked the Steelers to pursue if the option was made available to them? What side who you take in this scenario, and what is your reasoning? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!