Should Steelers trade up for a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft?

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1). Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1). Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK /

The 2021 NFL Draft class is loaded with quarterbacks. Is this the perfect year for the Steelers to trade up to draft their future signal-caller?

After a remarkable start to the season, I doubt that most Steelers fans have given a lot of thought as to who their next quarterback is going to be. Pittsburgh has been on a roll this year after recording the best start in the history of the franchise, while Ben Roethlisberger has exceeded all expectations in 2020.

However, all good things must come to an end at some point. Big Ben still has one year left on his current deal following the 2020 season, and it’s possible that the Steelers could offer him an extension in an effort to get his cap hit lower for next year. As of now, he is set to make $41.25 million in 2021, according to Over the Cap. This is an outrageously large number for a 39-year-old quarterback – even one that has played as well as Roethlisberger.

While the Steelers are obviously going to make sure that Ben walks away on his own terms when his time is done, should Pittsburgh consider moving up to draft a quarterback in 2021?

Quarterback should be on Steelers radar

We have seen enough out of Mason Rudolph to know that he is not the long-term answer. In all the opportunities he has been given, Rudolph has consistently displayed a lack of velocity, mobility, and overall arm talent at the position. Even if he did show more promise last year, Rudolph will be entering the final year of his deal next season, and it would be hard to justify giving him a contract extension.

Fortunately, the 2021 NFL Draft class is loaded with talent at the quarterback position. Generational prospects like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be well out of reach for the Steelers to strike a trade, while BYU’s Zach Wilson has been phenomenal this year and clearly looks the part of a franchise quarterback. While he will no doubt end up going high, it could be worth it for the Steelers to make a move this year – even if it cost them a king’s ransom.

A trade would be expensive

The way Wilson is currently playing, he could go as high as the number three pick in the draft. If this is the case, there is very little chance that Pittsburgh could execute a trade for the talented signal-caller. However, if he starts to slip even a little, the Steelers should have a plan in place to move up. Trading into the top 10 from where the Steelers are picking will cost them upwards of three first-round picks. But nothing in the NFL is more important than a quarterback and landing a player like Zach Wilson could keep Pittsburgh on top for a long time.

Another likely less expensive option would be moving up to grab a player like North Dakota State quarterback, Trey Lance. Though we are still very early in the process, it looks like Lance is going to be the fourth quarterback taken this year. If he slips to be the back-half of the first round, the Steelers could give up significantly less draft capital to make a move for him. The problem with Lance, however, is that he opted out of the season this year after one less than stellar performance, and teams will be banking on his tape from 2019.

In reality, if Ben Roethlisberger decides he wants to stick around for a while longer, the Steelers will continue to build around him. However, this is a spectacular year for quarterbacks and Pittsburgh could pull the trigger to trade up for one in April.