Steelers must be prepared to trade up for a QB in the 2021 NFL Draft

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1).
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1). /

A trade for Sam Darnold could cause one quarterback to slip in the NFL Draft. Here’s why the Steelers must be prepared to trade up.

After the San Francisco 49ers traded with the Miami Dolphins this offseason to land the 3rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, I would have thought that all hope of landing a potential franchise quarterback was gone this year. We knew at this point that three quarterbacks would be taken to open the draft and that teams like the Panthers and Broncos are both eyeing quarterbacks inside the top 10 picks this year.

However, in a somewhat shocking move, Carolina now seems to be out of the running for a quarterback this year as they have elected to trade for Jets signal-caller, Sam Darnold. This really throws a curveball in the mix for a team like the Steelers.

Prior to this, it seemed as though Pittsburgh has approached the offseason with the idea that they would not be targeting any of the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft. But what would happen if an elite prospect fell within striking distance.

Why Steelers must prepare to move up to grab a quarterback

I am all about taking the best player available on the draft board. If this means moving up near the top ten picks to grab a franchise quarterback, then this should be a no-brainer. While short-sighted Steelers fans would try to argue that the team needs to build a winning roster right now, it would be foolish for Pittsburgh to neglect the chance at securing an elite quarterback prospect if the situation calls for it.

It’s been rumored that Mac Jones is the plan for the 49ers with the 3rd overall pick. In a normal year, a player like Justin Fields or Trey Lance could go as high as the number one overall pick, and the Steelers just wouldn’t be able to make a play for someone projected to go this high. If they wait until next year, for instance, Pittsburgh might be forced to give up twice as much draft capital to move up to one of the top picks and land a player like North Carolina’s Sam Howell or Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler (assuming they both declare for the draft).

In what seemed like a long-shot effort, the Steelers had a personal meeting with Ohio State quarterback, Justin Fields this offseason, so there is at least some level of interest here. As an underclassman with plenty of talent and tools, he checks all of the boxes Pittsburgh typically looks for in a first-round pick. Considering that this same team was willing to trade up to pick 10 for an inside linebacker just two years ago, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they could prepare to do the same for a much more important player.

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I get what fans are thinking; I really do. With Ben Roethlisberger returning for the 2021 season and with a handful of one-year contracts, the Steelers really need to try to make a run now. However, is going all-out for 2021 a good enough reason to pass on the opportunity to land a franchise quarterback? At the very least, Pittsburgh must be prepared to move up in the NFL Draft if the stars align.