What was the alternative to Kenny Pickett if the Steelers didn't draft a QB in 2022?

Steelers, Will Levis
Steelers, Will Levis / Michael Owens/GettyImages

Many fans weren't sold on Kenny Pickett when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2022. In fact, many fans who studied QB prospects during the pre-draft process weren't on board with taking a quarterback at all last year. I was one of them.

For starters, there was a debate on who the best quarterback was in the 2022 class, and the consensus board showed that nobody really had the answer. Pickett was the most polished of the group but didn't come without some flaws. He had just one year of at least respectable production (coming in his fifth season in 2021) and his tiny hands were a historical outlier.

Other prospects had issues of their own. Malik Willis was incredibly raw and regressed as a passer in his final season, Matt Corral came from a gimmicky scheme at Ole Miss, Desmond Ridder had accuracy issues, and Sam Howell had no feel for pressure in the pocket.

After countless hours of pre-draft film study on the 2022 quarterbacks, I didn't hand out higher than a second-round grade to any of the QBs, and my first quarterback was the 40th overall player on my big board.

By my assessment, the correct answer was to simply not take a quarterback high in the 2022 NFL Draft and to wait until the following year to address the position. But what would the alternative have been?

Steelers wouldn't be in a better position at QB if they waited until 2023

Obviously, there are a ton of factors that go into this hypothetical situation. You could argue that Kenny Pickett helped this team win several games down the stretch -- including game-winning drives against the Raiders and Ravens late in the season. These weren't guaranteed to happen with Mitch Trubisky or another QB at the helm.

This could have affected Pittsburgh's overall record last season; thus impacting their draft position. Regardless, the fact that three quarterbacks were selected within the first four overall picks means that the Steelers almost certainly would have missed out on Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson.

This means that there's a good chance that Will Levis could have been their quarterback. I had a second-round grade on Levis (as I did in 2022 on Pickett), but Levis would have been slightly higher on my board. Still, I have major questions about his accuracy and he looks like a player who could stand to sit and learn for a year -- despite the fact that he will be a 24-year-old rookie.

If the Steelers decided to go the free-agent route prior to the draft (which probably would have been unlikely), then they could potentially be looking at a player like Jimmy Garoppolo as their quarterback.

Kenny Pickett certainly wasn't perfect as a rookie, but he did show flashes with his strong leadership and ability to extend the play with his legs and keep his eyes down the field. He will need to take a big step forward in his second season.

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However, by just running through a few hypothetical scenarios, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly wasn't guaranteed to be better off at quarterback if they would have waited until 2023 to address the position. We can be upset with the decision to draft Pickett at the time and still admit that it wasn't a terrible decision to take a shot on a franchise quarterback.