It's been an interesting 2023 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This team was blown out twice in the first four weeks of the season and lost to two-win teams in back-to-back weeks in December. Despite their struggles, they managed to stay in the thick of the playoff race. That is until the fiasco against the Colts in Week 16.
As the season begins to unravel, the Steelers have jumped up in the NFL Draft order. If the season ended today, they would be looking at a pick in the middle of the first round (and we know they could use it).
Though Pittsburgh does have some cornerstone players they can build around (thanks largely to their impressive 2023 draft class), there is still plenty of work to do when it comes to roster building. Here's what I have the Steelers doing in my latest seven-round mock draft.
Steelers mock draft round 1: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
This selection would probably catch Steelers Nation off guard, but should it? Kenny Pickett has been one of the least productive quarterbacks in the NFL over his first two seasons. Over a similar span, other franchises have given up on much larger draft investments for similar reasons. It's also important to remember that Kenny Pickett was a Kevin Colbert selection who was selected just before GMs Omar Khan and Andy Weidl took over the front office.
If the Steelers don't trade for a quarterback during the 2024 offseason (or sign a veteran like Kirk Cousins), they would be foolish not to consider taking a quarterback early in a loaded QB class. Though Pittsburgh won't stand a shot at Drake Maye or Caleb Williams, J.J. McCarthy could be an excellent consolation prize.
McCarthy is young and toolsy with an elastic arm and excellent ability to extend the play. His lean frame (6'3'', 197 lbs) isn't exactly what the Steelers are used to at the quarterback position, but he more than makes up for his lack of mass with elite tools and upside.
McCarthy has done an insanely good job making the Michigan football program relevant again. He went 26-1 as a starter over the past two seasons, via Sports Reference. The Steelers can't afford to go another year with Pickett as their quarterback, and dipping their feet in a stacked QB class might be the way to go. McCarthy is a far superior prospect than Pickett entering the NFL.