Which quarterbacks will be on Steelers radar for 2022 NFL Draft?

Oregon Ducks quarterback Tyler Shough (12). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Oregon Ducks quarterback Tyler Shough (12). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers could be searching for a new franchise quarterback following the 2021 season. Here’s who they could be eying in next year’s NFL Draft.

Even the most loyal Ben Roethlisberger fans must realize that his time is swiftly coming to an end. After the way he played in the final 6 games of the 2020 season, it appeared as though the Steelers may have been ready to move on. However, after Big Ben took a substantial pay cut and reworked his contract, he was given another year in Pittsburgh.

It’s hard to say exactly how the 2021 season will play out for Pittsburgh, but the odds of winning the division are currently stacked against them. Most betting sites have both the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens with better odds, and several analysts believe that even the Cincinnati Bengals are a better bet in 2021 than the Steelers.

While the rest of the young quarterbacks in the AFC North are on the rise, Ben Roethlisberger’s play has been in steady decline for a few years now. Because Ben turns 40 years old next season and has a contract that is set to terminate due to his voidable years, the Steelers are very likely to move in a different direction in 2022.

Though they could look for a bridge quarterback to be a stop-gap signal-caller, 2022 could finally be the year this team invests high draft capital in the most important position in football. But which prospects could Pittsburgh be eying in next year’s NFL Draft?

Steelers could miss out on the top two quarterbacks

So far in my evaluations, there are two quarterbacks I like above the rest of the group: Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and North Carolina’s Sam Howell. While this is subject to change, there are reasons why I have these quarterbacks in a tier of their own.

Both Rattler and Howell are just 20 years old and were quite impressive in 2020. Though they both need to cut down on their poor decision-making, they have remarkable arms, and their ability to make plays down the field rivals what we have seen from almost any quarterback to come out over the past few years.

These are traits that are hard to teach. Both Rattler and Howell can move very well in the pocket and keep their eyes down the field. They hit all of my thresholds for athleticism and tools at the position. Unfortunately, the Steelers probably won’t have a chance at either.

Most draft sites project Howell and Rattler to be lock top-5 picks next year. Even if the Steelers wanted to trade future draft capital to secure one of these players, they could afford to finish with a record no better than .500. In fact, if we are being realistic, Pittsburgh probably needs to have 6 wins or less to have the firepower to move to one of the top three picks to secure one of these two quarterbacks.

Because of this, the Steelers may have to settle for someone in the next tier of passers (if they are sold on taking a quarterback next season). As of now, the best of the rest includes players like Kedon Slovis, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, and Tyler Shough.

It’s hard to know exactly what type of passer the Steelers and Matt Canada could be looking for. In the past, the team has always valued big-bodied passers with the arm to cut through the wind. If that is still their poison, then Tyler Shough makes sense.

Shough is still a very raw football player and he needs to cut down on his poor decision-making. However, at 6’5” and 221 pounds, Shough is a plus athlete with a big arm and lots of upside. The former Oregon QB transferred to Texas Tech this offseason and will look to have a big junior season.

Malik Willis also has a lot of upside, but the small-school quarterback measures in at just 6’1” and 215 pounds – much smaller than what the Steelers have looked for in the past. Desmond Ridder has many of the traits the Steelers could desire, but his arm is average for NFL standards, and Kedon Slovis is known more for his ability to stand in the pocket and deliver accurate short and intermediate passes than anything else.

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If I had to guess, Tyler Shough and Desmond Ridder are names that will be on Pittsburgh’s radar next year and they will likely often be mocked to the Steelers. How the team performs in 2021 will determine which quarterbacks will be within reach for them next April.