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2024 NFL Draft

Saunders: Uninspiring Senior Bowl for Steelers QB Options



Steelers draft QB Michael Penix Jr.

MOBILE, Ala. — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin promised competition for former first-round pick Kenny Pickett at quarterback this offseason. But if you came into 2024 hoping that competition would come in the form of a high pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, you should probably expect to be disappointed.

For starters, Tomlin, who is never shy about which players and position groups he’s interested in, spent his week in Mobile intently watching offensive and defensive linemen, cornerbacks and wide receivers, and just about everyone other than the quarterbacks.

Secondly, the group here at the Senior Bowl has greatly disappointed their expectations. Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix both game into the week with first-round hype, and were paired together on the same team by Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy to create a practice-week competition between the two of them on the National Team.

Instead, American Team quarterback Spencer Rattler might’ve had the best week of practice. He certainly did compared to expectations. Rattler came in as an expected Day Three pick, but has been nearly as good as the higher-profile options.

Pittsburgh Steelers draft Bo Nix

Bo Nix, Oregon Athletics

Senior Bowl performance isn’t everything, but Nix and Penix have not looked as good in their week as Mac Jones did in 2021 or Kenny Pickett in 2022 — two first-round picks who have not worked out all that well for the teams that drafted them so far.

There are other quarterbacks that are not here, but Caleb Williams and Drake Maye figure to be top three pick, and LSU’s Jayden Daniels figures to be long gone by the time the Steelers draft.

There are later-round options, including Rattler, Tulane’s Michael Pratt and Tennessee’s Joe Milton III that are here and Florida State’s Jordan Travis and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy that are not.

That type of competition could certainly come, but none of those players would be expected to make a real run at Pickett’s primacy over the starting position in training camp.

It seems very likely that if that type of competition is coming as promised, that it will come through free agency, whether that is the return of Mason Rudolph or from an outside source.