Should Steelers ‘go big or go home’ in the 2022 NFL Draft?
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some franchise-altering decisions to make this offseason. Should they take high risks for potentially high rewards in the 2022 NFL Draft?
There are a number of ways teams can approach the NFL Draft. Many organizations attempt to patch holes during free agency and spend elite draft capital on players at important positions. Others clearly value positional need over the ‘best player available’ approach at times, while many teams look for a healthy blend where the need and value collide.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in quite the predicament this year. The 2021 season showed us that this team is lacking talent at multiple positions on both sides of the ball, and there has been a ton of starter turnover since the beginning of the 2021 offseason.
While Pittsburgh does have more salary-cap space in 2022 than they’ve had in a very long time, it’s going to go quickly — especially considering that Minkah Fitzpatrick needs a rich, new deal — and they may be only to get a few quality free agents with what’s leftover.
There’s no doubt that the Steelers are going to have multiple pressing positions of need entering the 2022 NFL Draft in April. Because of this, they will have a choice to make: do they play it safe and fill holes in the draft or do they shoot for the stars?
Should Steelers take high risks in the NFL Draft?
The safe approach might look something like taking the best available offensive lineman in the first round, and filling needs like cornerback, linebacker, or defensive tackle on day two. While this strategy could prove to produce a quality draft class down the line, it doesn’t solve their biggest issue.
The fact of the matter is that, without a franchise quarterback, the Steelers aren’t going to be successful — even if they solidify the hurting positions on their roster. Taking the ‘safe’ approach in the NFL Draft could make Pittsburgh a more talented team. But is that the best way to go?
Though I’m not a huge fan of the 2022 quarterback class, I also don’t believe that it’s as bad as some draft analysts are making it out to be. If the Steelers do believe that there is a franchise quarterback among this group, that should be the avenue they should explore.
One of the players who has been linked to the Steelers is Liberty QB, Malik Willis. Willis is far from a perfect prospect. He stands just above 6-feet tall, played at a non-Power Five school, struggled with consistency this year, and took a step back in terms of production.
However, despite all of the risks, Willis could pay dividends that are much greater than any of the ‘safe’ selections the Steelers could make this year.
If a player like Willis were to his upside, the Steelers could find themselves in one of those dream scenarios that few franchises get the pleasure of having, where they go from one franchise quarterback to the next without wasted years in between. If this proves to be the case, who’s to say that trading up for Willis is the wrong decision?
Perhaps this ‘risky’ player isn’t Malik Willis. Maybe it’s another quarterback with tools the Steelers are eying like Sam Howell or Matt Corral. At the very least, nobody should argue that a franchise quarterback isn’t the most important player on the field at all times.
With every selection in the NFL Draft, there’s always some level of risk. However, when it comes to finding the next franchise quarterback, sometimes teams have to reach for the stars.
I still don’t know what the best approach is for the Steelers in 2022, but I do know that taking any one of these quarterbacks is a risk. Still, it’s a risk that could prove to be well worth taking if they find the right guy. It will be interesting to see if Pittsburgh goes this route in April.