Steelers fans shouldn’t be so low on QB prospect Sam Howell

Sam Howell #7 of the North Carolina Tar Heels. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Sam Howell #7 of the North Carolina Tar Heels. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Sam Howell isn’t the name most fans want at quarterback, but here’s why Pittsburgh Steelers fans should perhaps reconsider. 

This is a very exciting offseason for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. After the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert will be searching for their next franchise quarterback (hopefully, one who could lead this team for the foreseeable future).

There have been a lot of different opinions about the 2022 quarterback class set to enter the NFL Draft. While most draft experts would agree that this isn’t a particularly strong class, there are several players with the tools to gamble on.

Many fans have taken kindly to the idea of adding a quarterback like Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, or Matt Corral early in the offseason. However, one player that Steelers fans and the NFL Draft media alike seem to be very low on is North Carolina quarterback, Sam Howell.

This isn’t something I expected to happen in the pre-draft process, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure if the Sam Howell hate is justified.

Steelers fans too low on Howell

Let me start by saying that I agree with those who think Howell still has a long way to go. He needs to improve his field vision, consistency, and decision-making, and he could probably benefit from a year to sit and learn behind a veteran. However, next to Malik Willis, he has more upside than any quarterback in this draft, and the tools are easy to see.

Though he’s not without his shortcomings, I see a lot to work with when I put on Sam Howell’s film. He’s got a cannon of an arm to both drop the ball in a bucket deep down the field or put it on a rope down the seam. While he won’t be considered an elite runner at the QB position in the NFL, his legs are still quite good and he should have no issue extending the play and moving the chains on the ground if he sees an opening.

What’s most interesting to me is how quickly fans forget about the player we saw in 2019 and 2020. Howell was a very high recruit coming out of high school in 2019, and his first two seasons for the Tar Heels were remarkable. In 2020, Howell averaged 11.1 adjusted passing yards per attempt to go with 35 total touchdowns and 7 interceptions, via Sports Reference.

Are we so quick to forget that Howell was projected to be the potential number one overall pick back in August? I know that his 2021 season didn’t go according to plan, but there were reasons for the setback as well. Howell lost his four best skill players to the NFL Draft, and his offensive line was dismal this past season.

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Regardless, Howell will be just 21 years old to start his rookie season and he has some terrific tools to work with. I think it’s a mistake for Steelers fans to write him off. If he returns to the player we saw in 2020, Howell could be one of the steals of the draft.