The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2022 offseason. With free agency as the next big event to shape next season’s roster, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. The Steelers will have a number of decisions with players who were on the 2021 roster and will have the opportunity to add some free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection. With the NFL combine and player pro days appearing to be back on the table this in the coming months, there will hopefully be much more information in regards to draft prospects this year.
When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or quarterback with their first-round pick. Others feel defensive line or cornerback could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.
In the latest one-round mock draft by CBSSports, they have the Steelers addressing the quarterback position before anything else. With Ben Roethlisberger believed to hanging it up his cleats after 18 seasons, there are definitely questions to be answered at the position. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.
Check out the Steelers 20th pick:
20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Malik Willis | QB | Liberty | SR |
Being early in the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Willis according to thedraftnetwork.com:
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is one of the most challenging quarterback evaluations I can remember doing in recent years. Willis is the most physically gifted quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, bar none. But his performance on the field in 2021 took a bit of a step back from a ball security standpoint and Willis played in an environment for the Flames that created some challenges. Willis often failed to get help from his receivers on throws that challenged their catch radius. But Willis too often asked them to win outside their frame. Liberty failed to afford Willis with easy completions on too many instances—but then again, Willis at times forsook them in favor of extending plays with his legs. There is very much a blame salad to be had with Liberty and the challenges that Willis’ quarterback evaluation presents. I do think in an NFL environment, Willis will have a great opportunity to develop into a franchise player given his dynamic physical gifts, but you’re going to need to both tailor your offense to his strengths and be willing to give him the necessary time to develop as a player and elevate his baseline of operations as a quarterback. Willis currently is more of a thrower than a quarterback and he relies on his athleticism to help facilitate and create explosive plays. I love the fact that he commandeered a tempo-oriented offense and any NFL franchise that brings Willis into the fray would be foolish to not look to amplify that part of his game, where defenses become more vanilla and his athleticism can strain the conditioning and discipline of the defense. The former Auburn Tiger is a two-year starter with the Flames and therefore will need plenty of patience; a team who drafts him to serve as a starter right away will likely be disappointed with the results. In all, Willis has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this year’s class and in the right environment, I could easily see him becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player. But his variance of outcomes will very much be dependent on where he lands and the wrong environment may yield ugly results.
Ideal role: Developmental starting quarterback
Scheme tendencies: RPO and QB-run-heavy offense with featured passing in the shallow areas and vertically down the field.
For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Willis with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, a different one who may still be available, or that Willis will not make it to the 20th pick? Personally, I think this position is one the Steelers need to address either in free agency or at some point in the draft. Being so early in the process, I would not be surprised in Willis’ measurable move him up draft boards in the coming months and won’t ultimately be an option for the Steelers at the 20th overall selection.