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2024 NFL Draft

Could Steelers Trade Up for QB? New CBS Mock Has Them Landing J.J. McCarthy



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

A new mock draft by CBS Sports has the Pittsburgh Steelers making the bold move of trading up in the first round to get a quarterback.

Tom Fornelli of CBS projected in his mock draft posted on Friday that the Steelers will trade up in the first round from pick No. 20 to get their hands on Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

“The Steelers realize Kenny Pickett isn’t the answer and don’t waste time trying to correct the situation,” Fornelli wrote. “Arthur Smith is likely to bring a run-heavy offense that relies on play action and tight ends, and that sounds a lot like the offense McCarthy ran at Michigan! McCarthy has a strong arm, diagnoses defenses quickly, and is a good enough athlete to regularly extend drives with his legs. He’d be a good fit here.”

The Steelers would be trading with the Bears to get to No. 9 overall in Fornelli’ scenario, though he does not give a price tag for the trade. According to the Draftek trade value chart, the Steelers would have to trade their second-round pick at No. 51 and their sixth-round pick at No. 197 to make the deal work.

In McCarthy, the Steelers would be getting a relative unknown, despite his status as a two-year starter at Michigan, one of the most well-scouted teams in the country. That’s because with McCarthy under center, the Wolverines almost never threw the ball. 

In 2023, he started 15 games and completed 72.3% of his passes, while throwing for 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. He maintained a 167.4 passer rating. But he threw just 332 times, and for 2,991 yards. That finished 35th among FBS quarterbacks last season. It’s almost 2,000 yards less than Washington quarterback Michael Penix threw.

McCarthy also did not participate in the 2024 Senior Bowl, so teams have not had the chance to evaluate him in a game-like setting. McCarthy will be meeting NFL teams for the first time at the NFL combine next week.

The Steelers have not historically traded up in the first round very often, but they have done it twice recently. The Steelers moved up to No. 10 to get linebacker Devin Bush in 2019 and got ahead of the New York Jets last year to make sure they landed tackle Broderick Jones.

With the Steelers’ original pick at No. 20, Fornelli has the Bears taking a popular choice for the Steelers: Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson.

It’s hard to envision the Steelers making such a trade, but with a scarcity of options at the quarterback position, it’s hard to rule it out entirely. If Omar Khan balks at the cost of a Justin Fields trade, moving up to get McCarthy might be the Steelers’ next-best chance at upgrading their quarterback room this offseason.