Back before the 2020 NFL Draft, many NFL ‘experts’ on various TV networks were calling for the Steelers to draft a quarterback with their first pick. Most Steeler fans disagreed with that logic, and apparently the team did too, passing on popular names like Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason, and Jake Fromm to draft a wide receiver with their top pick at No. 49. Despite rumors, Pittsburgh wasn’t interested in Jameis Winston, either.
The Steelers’ draft strategy made sense - why waste a pick on a developmental quarterback in a draft where the goal is to win in the here and now?
Even though Pittsburgh made the right choice in not drafting a signal caller in 2020, they will still need to select a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger at some point. The problem lies in when exactly they should do so.
Roethlisberger will probably play for about two more years or so, finishing off his contract. His goal is most likely to win a ring this year and then ride off into the sunset, and I’m sure Steeler fans wouldn't mind that, either.
However, winning a Super Bowl is never a guarantee for any team, and Roethlisberger’s Steelers timeline isn’t exactly locked in; it’s impossible to know how much longer he wants to play, which makes it even harder to know when the team should draft his successor.
The obvious choice is to draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft after Ben retires, but if the careers of Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers have taught us anything, having a young quarterback sitting behind a veteran for a year or two can do wonders for their development.
Drafting a quarterback earlier than necessary takes away the pressure of absolutely needing to select one later, and if a quarterback falls to the Steelers in this upcoming draft who they really like, it might be hard for them to pass him up. Much like in this year’s draft, however, using a high pick on a player who won’t be making an immediate impact could be what keeps the team from making a playoff run that year - which would go against the Steelers “win now with Ben” philosophy.
There’s also the unlikely possibility that Mike Tomlin wants to give Mason Rudolph another chance at being the next franchise passer.
Another variable to consider is the quarterback class. This upcoming year, both Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields seem to be first round prospects, but not many other quarterbacks are firmly in that conversation right now. Until now and the 2021 draft, a lot will change, but keep in mind that a strong quarterback class will raise the probability of a blue-chip passer falling to wherever the Steelers are picking.
Drafting a future franchise quarterback is a massive investment, with little room for error. There’s no easy answers.
All we do know is that the Steelers are in a ride-or-die situation with Ben Roethlisberger in 2020. Planning for the future is important, but the team has a chance to make some noise this year, and that’s what we should be focused on.
Let us know in the comments what your ideal post-Ben Roethlisberger reality looks like: what should the Steelers be planning at the quarterback position after No. 7 retires?