The Pittsburgh Steelers have done their due diligence on draft prospects at every position during the pre-draft process, and that includes quarterback. Despite having their quarterback of the future in 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett, the Steelers are losing backup quarterback Mason Rudolph to free agency and also could choose to release backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky for cap savings. We already reported that the team met with former UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the Shrine Bowl, and Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network reported recently that the team also met with former East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers, who won MVP at the NFLPA Bowl.
Ahlers has significant experience at ECU, as he saw significant playing time in each of his five seasons at the school. His final season was his most impressive as he threw for 3,708 yards and 28 touchdowns with just five interceptions. During his career with the Pirates, the lefty quarterback threw for a total of 13,933 yards with 97 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. He also showed off some dual-threat ability as a freshman, running for 592 yards and six touchdowns. He ran for 359 yards in his sophomore season but never ran for more than 204 yards in a season after that. He has 1,446 career rushing yards and 25 career rushing touchdowns.
At the NFLPA Bowl, Ahlers put on a show, going 9-12 for 189 yards and a touchdown while leading the American team to a 19-17 win over the National Team. Ahlers is definitely a late-round name to watch for Pittsburgh, as it wouldn’t be completely surprising to see the Steelers add a quarterback in the seventh round, and if they don’t, I’d bet on them bringing in a guy as an undrafted free agent. Ahlers fits the mold as a camp arm who had impressive college production and has shown he can get it done with his arm and his legs.
While there is no chance Rudolph is back in the black and gold this offseason, whatever the team does with Trubisky will likely determine how they approach the quarterback position this offseason. If they opt to keep Trubisky, they’ll likely just address quarterback with a rookie or a flier in free agency. If they cut Trubisky, the odds of them adding a rookie probably increase a little bit, but they’ll also probably bring in a veteran quarterback in free agency to back up Pickett.
It is noteworthy that the Steelers are meeting with quarterbacks who have shown a penchant for being able to use their legs in addition to their arm, as both Ahlers and Thompson-Robinson fit that mold. Quarterback is obviously far less of a need than it was last year, but if Omar Khan subscribes to the theory that you can never have too many quarterbacks, then they could add one in the late rounds or through undrafted free agency. At worst, the quarterback doesn’t pan out and can get cut without any penalty, and at best he works out and can become a trade chip or a good backup down the line.
I’m not really in favor of Pittsburgh spending their draft capital on a quarterback, but I would love to see them bring a guy in during camp to compete for the QB3 job. Both Ahlers and Thompson-Robinson are potential fits for that role.