Will the Steelers take a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft? Desmond Ridder and Kenny Pickett are the best options
The Steelers have a real quarterback question for the first time since 2004.
It was the last time the franchise drafted a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. That QB was Ben Roethlisberger, who won two Super Bowls and pieced together an 18-year career worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Roethlisberger retired after the 2021 season, and that opens the question. Will Pittsburgh select a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft? Sporting News takes a look at the QB situation in the Steel City.
MORE: NFL Mock Draft 2022: Complete 7-Round Edition
Steelers QB: 2021 recap
Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to an AFC Wildcard spot in his final season. He started in 16 regular season games and finished with 3,740 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Substitute Mason Rudolph started a game when Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19.
Roethlisberger retired after 18 seasons. He finished with 64,088 passing yards, 418 touchdowns and 211 interceptions. Big Ben was also 13-10 in the playoffs. This included wins at Super Bowl 40 and Super Bowl 43.
Steelers QB: Room 2022
Pittsburgh has two quarterbacks on the roster.
The Steelers added Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year, $14.28 million deal this offseason. Trubisky, a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, was a backup for the Bills last season.
Rudolph was a third-round pick in 2018 and has made 10 starts in four seasons. The Steelers are 5-4-1 in those games, and Rudolph has 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That included last year’s 16-16 draw with Detroit.
Dwayne Haskins was the Steelers’ third quarterback last season and was on the active roster for one game. Haskins died on April 9, 2022 when he was hit by a dump truck while trying to cross a freeway.
MORE: quarterback-only fictional draft
Which QBs are first-round material in the 2022 NFL Draft?
The Steelers have the No. 20 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Liberty’s Malik Willis will likely be the first quarterback in the roster, but Pittsburgh would have to trade in the top 10 to get him. It’s unlikely at this point.
Pitt’s Kenny Pickett would be a popular pick in his hometown. The Heisman Trophy finalist led the Panthers to the ACC championship, and he finished with 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season. Pickett’s hand size was a popular topic at the NFL Combine, but he will be drafted in the first round.
Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder is the other option. Ridder led the Bearcats to the college football playoffs last season and had 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions as a starter four. He added 29 rushing touchdowns. Ridder will likely be available at that time.
Why the Steelers should draft a QB
Look at the AFC North. Cincinnati has Joe Burrow. Baltimore has Lamar Jackson and Cleveland has added Deshaun Watson. Burrow led a Super Bowl run, Jackson was an NFL MVP, and Watson is trying to restore his career (and reputation) with the Browns.
Pittsburgh is the only team in the division that doesn’t have a long-term option in place at the top job. Roethlisberger was 67-22-1 against the Bengals, Browns and Ravens – a career winning percentage of .750 in the division.
The Steelers need to come up with a plan for the future, and Pickett or Ridder could be groomed in a year behind Trubisky or Rudolph. That’s a better plan than fishing a Day 2 quarterback like Sam Howell from North Carolina and hoping the stopgap works.
Speaking of which, here’s a recap of the quarterbacks Pittsburgh drafted while Roethlisberger was the starter: Rudolph (2018), Joshua Dobbs (2017), Landry Jones (2013), Dennis Dixon (2008) and Omar Jacobs (2006). All of these guys are career savers.
Why the Steelers should wait at QB
The Steelers only drafted a quarterback three times in the first round. Terry Bradshaw (1970) and Roethlisberger (2004) have combined for six Super Bowls. Mark Malone (1980) had the unenviable task of tracking Bradshaw, and the next first-round quarterback will face the same challenge after Big Ben.
In other words, the Steelers need to be here. If Pickett or Ridder isn’t a sure thing, then why not find out if Trubisky can relaunch his career like Tommy Maddox did in 2002. That would give Pittsburgh time to find the right guy.
Next year’s quarterback class could include Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Alabama’s Bryce Young and Florida’s Anthony Richardson, among others.
The Steelers haven’t shoved for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson via the trade market this season, but it’s becoming more common practice in the league. Maybe Pittsburgh will go that route next season.
There is no need to panic. That’s what Cleveland did this offseason.
Verdict: Steelers take over first-round QB
SN’s Vinnie Iyer asks the Steelers to draft Ridder in his latest seven-round simulation draft. Iyer writes:
“The Steelers can’t mess around with Mason Rudolph or limited bridge options like Mitchell Trubisky. They could think of an offensive line here, but Ridder’s experience, leadership, strong arm and sometimes dazzling athleticism provide the perfect makeup for Mike Tomlin’s next playmaker to replace Ben Roethlisberger.”
ESPN’s latest mock draft featuring Mel Kiper and Todd McShay has the Steelers taking Pickett with the No. 20 pick. Kiper writes:
“Will Pickett go higher than No. 20? Probably. But with no trades and with the Saints getting two instant starters and giving up a quarterback in this scenario, Pittsburgh is the most logical landing spot for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he beat Mitch Trubisky.”
They’re two different names, but predictions are that Pittsburgh will bring in their next quarterback in 2022.