Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: QB Tanner Morgan
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers signed rookie free agent quarterback Tanner Morgan to a contract after he went undrafted last weekend. Notably, they gave him a $25,000 signing bonus, which is of course guaranteed, a large figure by Pittsburgh’s standards though by no means abnormal around the league. He now makes three quarterbacks under contract.
There is a small sliver of a chance, perhaps, that the Steelers will break with their long-held philosophy of carrying three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. Their front office is different now and differing views may lead to a softening of that philosophy. So, too, may well the absence of a deserving third quarterback.
By the time is all said and done, it may hinge upon Tanner Morgan, rookie quarterback out of Minnesota. He had a very good season for the Golden Gophers all the way back in 2018 (when he had two NFL-level receivers to throw to, including first-round pick Rashod Bateman), but has done rather little to take note of since then.
The Steelers liked him enough to offer him $25,000 as a signing bonus, however, to get him to come to their team over others. That certainly won’t guarantee him a roster spot, by any means, but it’s slightly more of a commitment than is typical on their end for rookie college free agents.
I think perhaps my biggest concern with Morgan is a simple question: where is the upside? He’s not especially athletically gifted nor has he demonstrated great mental acuity for the position. He’s started over 50 games at the college level over five years. He threw 10 touchdowns in a season in which he played 13 games.
But everybody comes into the NFL with a clean slate. He gets to write his story now that his foot is in the door. Maybe he shows that with the right coaching environment in the right offense with the right weapons, he can run the Steelers’ system and show enough ‘upside’ to merit sitting in that third quarterback role this year.
If he doesn’t show signs of that, they very well may feel compelled to go out and find a veteran somewhere. They need to have someone, in their mind, that they would be willing to put on the field if necessary, and if he’s not much more tempting than Zach Gentry, then they need someone else.
And no, I’m not going to write about every undrafted signing, though I may write about a couple others. The mulleted fullback, for example, or the man they list as return specialist in a year in which they lost their return specialist in free agency.