This offseason, the Steelers must find a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger. This could drive Pittsburgh to select a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft this year.
It may not be impossible to win in the modern NFL without a good starting quarterback, but it certainly makes the rest of the team more challenging. That’s why the Steelers will do everything they can this offseason to find a high-level replacement for Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh will consider trade alternatives and a few intriguing free-agent quarterbacks, but the odds are stacked against them obtaining a new quarterback through the draft. The Steelers currently hold the No. 20 overall pick, but there’s a good chance Mike Tomlin and the rest of the team’s brain trust will be willing to trade up if they fall in love with a specific quarterback.
Although cornerback is a necessity for Pittsburgh, the bulk of the prospects on this list will be paid to pass the ball rather than intercept it.
5. Matt Corral
Due to an injury, he sustained in Ole Miss’ bowl game, Corral isn’t doing much at the Combine. Scouts’ reservations about his lack of size and physicality aren’t being alleviated by this. His biggest flaw as a prospect is that he lacks the body type to withstand the beating he’ll face in the NFL.
His collegiate tape appears to be above average in every other way. He’s a good passer who can throw the ball out of a number of arm positions. It’s easy to see why NFL scouts are attracted by his outstanding movement as a runner.
The Steelers will give Corral a lot of thought if they stay at No. 20. As a prospect, he has a high variance, but his high ceiling might make him a steal near the end of Round 1.
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4. Sam Howell
Howell and his North Carolina team had high preseason hopes heading into the season, but things didn’t go as planned. It’s not that Howell had a bad season; it’s simply that he didn’t have the kind of productive season that some scouts were expecting for.
As a result, Howell will most likely be available in the second half of Round 1 rather than in the top 10. He has decent arm strength and accuracy, but neither of these qualities distinguishes him.
His ability to tuck the ball and run when there’s no spy left to restrict him in the pocket is maybe his most fascinating skill at the next level. Given his stocky physique, he is surprisingly swift. He can also absorb hits without worrying about his durability because of his stature.
3. Andrew Booth Jr.
There is a non-zero potential that the Steelers will decide not to use their first-round pick on a quarterback. If that happens, Tomlin is likely to go all-in on a high-caliber cornerback to bolster his secondary.
Booth is a step behind Sauce Gardner and Derrick Stingley in terms of prospect value, but he still has a lot of upside at No. 20. There’s a good chance a team will be smitten by his athletic abilities and above-average intelligence and conclude he’s deserving of a draft pick in the teens.
If that doesn’t happen, the Steelers will give him a hard time as the clock starts ticking. On the outside, he possesses the size and quickness to play as a No. 1 cornerback. For the team that chooses him, the former Clemson standout should be able to step in and start right away.
Again, the question for Pittsburgh is whether they can afford to pass up their one and only first-round pick on a quarterback. Booth might turn into a wonderful pick for them at No. 20 if they choose value over positional necessity.
2. Malik Willis
The Steelers can’t realistically expect to keep Willis at 20 years old. If Pittsburgh wants to get the best quarterback in this year’s draft class, they’ll have to move up into the top ten.
Willis’ potential for a flop makes such a deal for Pittsburgh a hazardous gamble. The Scouts are concerned about his lack of accuracy with the football this season. He may have the best arm in the class, but that won’t matter until he can drastically improve his consistency.
That said, the potential for him to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL is too great to pass up. He has top strength and velocity when throwing the ball, and he isn’t hesitant to push the ball down the field.
Willis will never lead the league in completion %, but the concept that he can consistently make huge plays with Pittsburgh’s excellent receiving corps is enough for them to consider moving up to get him.
It’s not a ruse that the Steelers have spent a lot of time scouting Willis. When it comes to finding a replacement for Roethlisberger, he’s a legitimate contender.
1. Kenny Pickett
Pickett would be a sentimental choice for the Steelers in many respects. He was a standout in college for Pitt, and he’s already shown a great desire to continue his professional career in the city. The Steelers’ brain trust must remove sentimentality from their decision-making process.
Pickett may be the most polished quarterback in this year’s draft class, but scouts are justifiably concerned about his lack of upside. His small hands will have a significant impact on his draft stock. These numbers only added to the evaluators’ concerns about his ability to propel the ball down the field at a high enough velocity.
Even if he slips to No. 20, his inability to truly throw the long ball should cause the Steelers to reconsider choosing him. If they believe it can be fixed, he could be a bargain. He can throw short and intermediate routes with above-average accuracy and feel, without a question.
Pickett will most likely be selected in the first round by a team that wants him to start right away. In this class, he should be the most prolific rookie quarterback. What should keep the Steelers’ decision-makers awake at night are questions about how much upside he has left in his game.