Before the NFL Draft gets here, the Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of things to tackle on their plate. Numerous contracts must be terminated while others are restricted to give the team spending money, and soon it will be time to load up and plug some roster holes in free agency. But a good draft can really turn a franchise around fast.
The Steelers took a big step in the right direction last year when they loaded up on players like Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton, and Nick Herbig. However, when you look around the league, Pittsburgh still lacks the one thing much of their rivals do not: a franchise quarterback.
You can choose to believe that Kenny Pickett is the answer, but it's hard to put your trust in a soon-to-be 26-year-old quarterback who has 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 25 NFL games. Quite frankly, Pickett will never be enough to get the Steelers to the ultimate goal.
Though they spent a first-round pick on a quarterback in 2022, they can't let their investment lead to complacency, and the Steelers should be exploring the quarterback position in the 2024 NFL Draft. This doesn't necessarily mean that Pittsburgh needs to jeopardize its future and trade multiple first-round picks to move up for one of the top three quarterbacks this year. But sometimes, you simply need to be willing to throw a dart at the wall and see if it sticks.
Steelers should consider a project QB in the NFL Draft
The quarterback performances during Senior Bowl Week this year were admittedly underwhelming. Despite some high-profile names on hand this year like Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, the quarterback group in Mobile didn't come close to meeting expectations. But that doesn't mean that the Steelers should be disinterested in drafting one this year.
One quarterback in particular, Joe Milton III, couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. His accuracy and decision-making were all over the place during his time in Mobile, and he has the makings of a multi-year project.
Still, I must admit that I find Milton interesting. He's the exact opposite of what the Steelers currently have on their roster, as his physical traits are simply undeniable. At 6'5'' and 235 pounds with an 80 5/8'' wingspan and 10 3/8'' hands, Milton could pass for a tight end... and that's not a bad thing.
Though his accuracy and ability to read a defense are miles away from where he needs to be, Milton has physical traits that rival NFL quarterbacks like Anthony Richardson and even Josh Allen. According to NFLDraftScout.com, Milton has been hand-timed at running a 4.65. Moving like that for a quarterback this big is something only a handful of QBs in the league can do.
However, it's Milton's arm strength that is worth gambling on. The cannon attached to his right shoulder is a thing of beauty, and he showed off his throwing power as he launched the ball 70 yards on one knee.
Obviously, this will never come into play in the NFL. But what it does show you is that -- if Milton can take a few years to harness his game and improve his accuracy -- an NFL team could have a very rare breed of quarterback on their hands.
Joe Milton likely won't work out, but if he does...
More likely than not, Milton will prove to be a bust. But if he doesn't work out at quarterback, it doesn't mean his NFL career is over with. If he gets into Steelers training camp and proves that he just doesn't have what it takes, you can give Joe Milton III the Logan Thomas treatment.
Thomas was a four-year quarterback at Virginia Tech, but he was forced to make the transition to tight end in the NFL. Thanks to his size, traits, and football ability, the former fourth-round pick eventually developed into a fine starting NFL tight end.
While we all would loved to have seen Joe Milton dominate during Senior Bowl Week, the good news for the team drafting him is that he will now likely be a late Day 3 pick. The Pittsburgh Steelers might be able to snag him in with their 6th-round pick and give him a chance to develop at quarterback.
Milton's road to success in the NFL will be daunting, and he's a long shot to turn out. But we all know that quarterback is the most important position in professional sports. What's the harm in throwing a dart on the wall with a 6'5'', 235-pound quarterback with excellent mobility and unmatched arm talent and seeing if he sticks?
If not, move him to tight end and see if he can figure things out there. It's worth a gamble late in the 2024 NFL Draft.