Connect with us

2024 NFL Draft

Senior Bowl Takeaways: QB Takeaways, New Steelers Center Option Emerges

What are the top Senior Bowl takeaways from the 75th iteration of the game on Saturday?



Pittsburgh Steelers Sam Hartman

MOBILE, Ala. — The National team knocked off the American team in the Senior Bowl, 16-7, after a slugfest in Mobile. But for the prospects, what can be taken away for the rest of the process from the game moving forward for teams like the Steelers? Here are a few takeaways from the game.

Hartman Struggles

The biggest takeaway from this game is that with an extended look after Michael Penix pulled out and Bo Nix led the National team to a touchdown, Sam Hartman got an opportunity to step up. But he did not do that and generally looked like a mess.

But Hartman did not impress, completing just seven passes on 25 attempts for 69 yards. He led the team to three field goals, but on almost all of the drives, Hartman had issues either reading the defense, which led to a bad interception to Louisville’s Jarvis Brownlee, or had accuracy issues.

Pittsburgh Steelers Sam Hartman

Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman scrambles at the Senior Bowl, Feb. 3, 2024 – Alan Saunders / Steelers Now

He missed Penn State tight end Theo Johnson on an open Y-throwback play while streaking up the the hashes, and failed to drive the ball well enough deep or outside the numbers. Tez Walker won deep on a post route, and Hartman badly underthrew it, nearly leading to an interception.

Overall, he ended up with just a 43.2 quarterback rating, and played below-the-line. After a week of seeing him at least tread water, it seemed like he fell off a cliff on Saturday.

Two Defensive Standouts Who Shined

Two defensive standouts fit the Steelers well, that just makes sense for this team. North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray and Florida State defensive tackle Braden Fiske.


UNC LB Cedric Gray makes a tackle at the Senior Bowl, Feb. 3, 2024 – Alan Saunders / Steelers Now

Gray is a fun, smart linebacker who is not often caught out of place. Coming into the week, one of the biggest knocks on him was his experience in zone coverage, and it was a feeling-out process. But you could tell that the more he did it, the more comfortable he became. Playing in Tampa 2 coverage on Saturday, Gray drifted back perfectly into the dig behind him and knocked the ball down. He kept his aggressive, downhill play style to complement that, too.

As for Fiske, this guy rings out as a Pittsburgh Steelers player. He is not the flashiest guy out there, but consistently, he made plays with his strength and polished hands. Fiske is a hard-nosed interior guy who can play as a 3-technique with ease. Given that Armon Watts is a free agent, Fiske’s explosiveness and strength are a natural fit with Pittsburgh moving forward.

New Center Option Emerges

Some dynamite center options either were in Mobile or were supposed to be in Mobile, but by the end of the week, all of Jackson Powers-Johnson, Zach Frazier, and Sedrick Van Pran had either never shown up or left town completely. That allowed a consistent standout performer like UConn’s Christian Haynes to take snaps at center, and not only did he take reps there, he impressed while doing so.

Pittsburgh Steelers

UConn OL Christian Haynes plays center at the Senior Bowl, Feb. 3, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Haynes has a strong, stable base and great hands. He looks the part at guard, but the Steelers do not need to add a guard who can only play both positions. But a center who can move with strong hands and a mean streak? It sounds like someone Pittsburgh could want and even need. That’s exactly what they would get if Haynes can prove he can play center, and in his limited action this week, it seemed like he could become a guard with center versatility in his career.

QB Takeaways — Steelers Need?

The final quarterback synopsis of the week, Hartman aside, should be simple. In the game, it was clear who the two best quarterbacks were: Bo Nix and Spencer Rattler. Nix commanded the offense down the field and looked poised doing so after an inconsistent week, and that was without Penix playing. But Rattler looked like a pro. He took the best week at quarterback for anyone at the Senior Bowl and turned it into a dynamite performance.

Like with the rest of the practices, I liked Michael Pratt. The interception at the end of the game is situationally aligned, but he threw with anticipation and some serious mustard on the play. He layers throws well. But he can be inconsistent in his post-snap processing and inconsistent pocket presence. Carter Bradley is the unknown of the group. If you are not used to watching him, he has some surprising zip on his ball, and he plays with arm arrogance. But it can lead to some baffling decisions, and the mechanics on his front leg are a mess.

Pittsburgh Steelers Michael Pratt

Tulane QB Michael Pratt warms up at the Senior Bowl, Feb. 3, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

As for Joe Milton, he is the most maddening quarterback you could concoct. Man, the arm is live and dynamite. He is big and mobile, and there are designed quarterback-run schematics that an offensive coordinator could use with him. But he is wildly inaccurate and does not make up for the lack of accuracy with sound decision-making. Then, he drifts in the pocket and runs himself right into pressure. His game has many negatives, but he is a quarterback with a huge arm, mobility, and prototypical quarterback size. I don’t see it, but some team will likely talk themselves into him as a project.

Quick Hitters

TCU running back Emani Bailey had a rough week of practice, but he rescued it by being the best back in the game. Bailey ran 10 times for 53 yards for the American Team to lead all rushers. 

Florida State tight end Jaheim Bell is a bit shorter than the average height for his position, checking in at 6-foot-1 7/8 this week. He can make up for that by showing his versatility, like when he lined up at fullback today.

UConn defensive end Eric Watts showed off his tenacity, getting into a post-whistle shoving match with BYU tackle Kingsley Suamataia and then taking a roughing the passer penalty against Sam Hartman. The penalty is a no-no, but I thought Haynes did a good job of showcasing his competitive spirit without crossing any red lines.

New Hampshire RB Dylan Laube showed off his pass-catching skills all week. He looks like a quality punt returner, as well. He did a nice job setting up a wall for a big return on his lone PR rep, and nearly broke free.

The Big Ten tight ends are, well, big. Brevyn Spann-Ford caught a touchdown, Theo Johnson had two catches and A.J. Barner had two more, as well. They were a productive group.

Kalen King had a better game than he did week of practice. He’s a player that came in with first-round hype that I’m not sure he lived up to, but he at least left Mobile putting his best foot forward. His PSU running mate, Johnny Dixon, pulled out of the game for undisclosed reasons.