Sam Howell is one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, however, the Steelers fanbase doesn’t appear to be interested in him.
Entering the 2021 season, potential Steelers draft target Sam Howell was projected to be a top 5 selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, as he and Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler were projected to be the top 2 quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.
However, that is not the way things worked out this season, as Howell did not play as well as analysts expected him to, and Rattler didn’t even make it to midseason as the starting quarterback before being benched.
Despite a disappointing final season with the Tar Heels, Howell possesses many of the traits that are considered desirable in an NFL quarterback and is still a potential first-round selection. With Ben Roethlisberger retiring, the Steelers have been heavily linked to the selection of a quarterback in the first round, with Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, and Howell being the three the team has been most oft-linked to.
While he’s a talented prospect, much of Steelers nation doesn’t appear to be in love with the idea of selecting him as their next franchise quarterback for several reasons.
Sam Howell has a lot of similarities to another AFC North QB
While there are many reasons that Steelers fans may not like Howell, the most obvious one is the comparisons he has drawn to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Both quarterbacks are listed at 6’1″, and are separated by only 5 lbs. with Mayfield listed at 215 lbs. and Howell is listed at 220 lbs. Both are short and stocky quarterbacks, who have dealt with concerns of height issues throughout the draft process.
Mayfield has become one of the most hated players among Pittsburgh fans, due to him being the quarterback of a rival team, a featured player in many commercials, and his status as a former number 1 overall pick. Additionally, while Mayfield has shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback, he has been very inconsistent, and many wonder if he is more than a middle-of-the-road starter.
With Mayfield not yet proving that he can be someone who elevates a team to another level, many question if the same will be said for Howell. Mayfield has been a fine starter for the Browns, but when Steelers fans are looking for who will be their next franchise quarterback, they want someone who can compete with the likes of Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson, not just an average starter.
Though Howell may not be the same player as Mayfield, the comparisons to him do worry Steelers fans and are a huge reason why they might like other prospects more.
Will Howell elevate those around him?
As previously mentioned, fans want a difference-maker at the quarterback position, not just a middle-of-the-road starter who will keep the team competitive. If the team wants to go that route they can go out and acquire a Jimmy Garoppolo or a Carson Wentz.
While Howell had a down year this year, much of that has been attributed to the fact that he lost his top weapons to the NFL, as his top wide receiver Dyami Brown, as well s his top two running backs, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter all got drafted.
While that is true and is totally understandable, this also raises the question of if Howell will need to be surrounded by star power in order to succeed, rather than being able to elevate the players around him. The jury is still out on that, and whether or not that is a fair question remains to be seen.
Whether or not the Steelers take Howell, remains to be seen. With the NFL Scouting Combine being this week, and Free Agency fast approaching, more clarity will arise as to how the Steelers view Howell and the rest of the quarterbacks in this draft class. But one thing is for sure, fans do not seem to be in love with the idea of Howell starting for the team next year at the current moment.