With rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers will hit a bit of a lull until the start of OTAs on May 23.
To fill some of the void, I thought it would be a great time to bring back a fun series that I have done in the past, starting today with the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North QBs edition.
This series is where I take a deep dive into each position group for all four teams in the division and rank them from best to worst.
With some big names at the QB position in the AFC North, this should be a fun one to kick things off with much debate.
1. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Prior to last season, the same team held down the top spot in the AFC North QBs rankings until the Cincinnati Bengals ascended to the top spot. Now, the Bengals are back at No. 1 for the second straight season.
Joe Burrow is among the elite of the elite at the position, so it only makes sense that a quarterback room featuring one of the top three quarterbacks in football is the best in its division. The former 2020 No. 1 overall pick quickly put himself on the map as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL the last two seasons. Displaying great accuracy and overall touch from the pocket, Burrow has established a game-breaking connection at the NFL level with former college teammate Ja’Marr Chase, helping turn the Bengals’ offense into one of the most explosive in the league. With Burrow at the helm, the Bengals have already appeared in a Super Bowl and made it to two straight AFC Championship games.
As long as Burrow is healthy, Cincinnati will be in the mix each and every season as a contender.
The Bengals recently added NFL veteran Trevor Simian as the backup to Burrow, which is a strong add at the backup position. Siemian has appeared in 35 career games with 30 starts and has a career record of 13-17. He might not be the best backup in the division, but it’s a sound upgrade from a guy like Brandon Allen in recent seasons.
Jake Browning comes in as the third quarterback for the Bengals. He doesn’t move the needle much, but he knows the system, having spent the last two seasons on the practice squad.
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS
It was quite the offseason for the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson. The 2018 NFL MVP requested a trade, was rather unhappy with contract negotiations, and then signed a five-year, $260 million deal with the Ravens just days after Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts re-set the market.
After some heated moments and pointed comments, the Ravens have Jackson locked up long term, which strengthens their quarterback room in a major way. While many in Steeler Nation seem to be doubting Jackson, I will do no such thing. He’s an immense talent who should take off as a passer in 2023 now that the Ravens put some weapons around him, and he’s still a dynamic runner with the football.
With a new OC in Todd Monken and improved weapons around him, Jackson should have a monster season.
Behind him, a Pro Bowler in Tyler Huntley returns, really strengthening Baltimore’s room. Jackson has missed a number of games in recent seasons, and Huntley has played well in relief of him for the most part. Having that type of experience and talent behind Jackson on the depth chart is a huge boost for the Ravens.
No. 3 QB Anthony Brown fits the mold of what the Ravens want at the position as well, and Baltimore added Delaware’s Nolan Henderson as a UDFA this offseason, a dual-threat quarterback from the FCS level who was on the Walter Payton Award watch list this past season.
3. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
The Pittsburgh Steelers move up a spot in the rankings ahead of the 2023 season, thanks to the development of Kenny Pickett and the overall display he put on down the stretch last season, especially coming up clutch late in games in big spots. The overall numbers weren’t all that impressive, but he has that moxie and leadership quality you need at the quarterback position.
A big leap forward should be in store for Pickett in 2023. He has experience under his belt, has taken over ownership of the offense, and now has a bunch of weapons and a strong offensive line in front of him.
Behind Pickett, the Steelers have a strength with veteran Mitch Trubisky still in the fold, at least for the 2023 season. Trubisky has a ton of experience with 64 career games and 55 starts in the NFL. He proved last season for Pittsburgh that he can come off the bench and lead the team to a win (Week 6 vs. Tampa Bay) and provide consistent play in a spot start leading to a win (Week 15 at Carolina).
The No. 3 job is certainly a concern as the Steelers currently have Tanner Morgan as the third quarterback on the roster. Pittsburgh did have Bryce Perkins, who has NFL experience, at rookie minicamp over the weekend as a tryout player, along with former Clemson and Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Last season I had the Cleveland Browns ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the rankings. After the performance Deshaun Watson put on the field after returning from suspension, it was hard for me to justify putting Cleveland over Pittsburgh.
Watson was largely abysmal after his return to the field after a nearly two-year hiatus and looked like the Browns made a bad gamble on the former Houston star. Now, with a full offseason in front of him and some of the rust knocked off, will Watson return to the high level of play he enjoyed in Houston? Only time will tell. If he does, he’ll help the Browns climb back above the Steelers.
If not…Cleveland is in serious trouble.
Behind Watson, the Browns have a real issue. Currently, the Browns have Joshua Dobbs penciled in as the backup behind Watson. Dobbs is a good athlete for the position and played relatively well last season in some starts down the stretch in Tennessee. Still, he has just two starts in his career, and having him as the No. 2 behind Watson is quite the risk.
Battling behind Dobbs for the No. 3 job in Cleveland is rookie fifth-round draft pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of UCLA and second-year pro Kellen Mond, both of whom have very similar skill sets to Dobbs. Last season, the backup role in Cleveland was solidified with Jacoby Brissett, but entering the 2023 season the Browns have way more questions than answers behind Watson.
2022 AFC North QB rankings:
No. 1 – Cincinnati Bengals
No. 2 – Baltimore Ravens
No. 3 – Cleveland Browns
No. 4 – Pittsburgh Steelers