It’s pretty obvious that the Pittsburgh Steelers are interested in a rookie quarterback, and that continues in ESPN’s latest mock draft that has them selecting quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty in the first round, followed by safety Jaquan Brisker of Penn State in the second round.
“All signs are pointing toward Pittsburgh drafting a quarterback,” wrote Todd McShay. “In this scenario, it doesn’t even have to move up to get one of the top two passers in the class. Willis is creative outside the pocket and has a rocket arm, and I actually have him ranked one spot ahead of Kenny Pickett at No. 21 on my board. …
“There’s no rush for Willis to play right away, and coach Mike Tomlin could develop the quarterback before turning over the keys. The AFC North is stacked at QB, but Willis has the upside to get the Steelers back in the mix.”
The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky on a two-year deal but the point of having him start while the successor is groomed is still valid. Willis is considered by many to have the highest ceiling out of the quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft, however some have him falling due to his rawness and have Pickett being drafted ahead of him due to the latter’s seemingly low-floor and pro-ready status. In this mock draft, McShay has Pickett being drafted by the Carolina Panthers ahead of Willis at sixth overall.
Not having to trade up to select Willis, who is pretty obviously Tomlin’s favorite, would be a huge get for the Steelers as other mock drafts have the team giving up as much as two-firsts and two-seconds for the right to select the Liberty quarterback. But there is always competition to land a quarterback, and a recent trade by the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles suggests that the Saints are planning to draft a quarterback even with Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton all under contract for next season.
As for the Steelers’ second-round pick, McShay has the team selecting Brisker to fill the strong safety hole that remains open after the team declined to resign Terrell Edmunds. While there is still a chance that Edmunds comes back, the Steelers may be looking for a cheap often as they are close to signing start free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to an extension that will reportedly make him the highest paid safety in the NFL.
“Terrell Edmunds could still re-sign in Pittsburgh, but even if he does, Minkah Fitzpatrick is entering the final year of his deal,” wrote McShay of the Brisker pick. “The Steelers could use a talented safety on a cheap contract to protect against losing either or both of them. Brisker is at his best working near the line of scrimmage thanks to above-average tackling skills and great instincts.”
The Steelers can go many ways with either of their first two picks, but many mock drafts are expecting the team to take a quarterback. Other needs that the Steelers can target include safety, corner back, wide receiver or help along either the defensive or offensive line.