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Mel Kiper Mock Draft 1.0: Steelers go with a “tough” QB in Round 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be looking to add a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft, but will this one be the right choice?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

With the Pittsburgh Steelers preparing for life without Ben Roethlisberger, there is no doubt the team will have quarterback on their team needs this offseason. How they go about finding that quarterback is anyone’s guess.

The Steelers have Mason Rudolph under contract for the 2022 season, and most assume he will be their guy to lead the way barring something unforeseen happening. In other words, unless the Steelers bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Rudolph. Another way the team can address this need would be through the 2022 NFL Draft. While this upcoming crop of quarterbacks is not nearly as star-studded as classes before them, there are still signal callers who are more than capable of developing into starters in the NFL.

Will the Steelers be one of those teams who try to find a quarterback through the draft process? Many experts are pointing in that direction, and that includes ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who just released his first mock draft of the offseason.

But before we get to Kiper’s pick for the Steelers, take a look at the players who went from 1-19 prior to the Steelers pick at No. 20.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson
2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux
3. Houston Texans, Evan Neal
4. New York Jets, Kyle Hamilton
5. New York Giants, Ikem Ekwonu
6. Carolina Panthers, Charles Cross
7. New York Giants, David Ojabo
8. Atlanta Falcons, Derek Stingley Jr.
9. Denver Broncos, Nakobe Dean
10. New York Jets, Drake London
11. Washington Football Team, Malik Willis
12. Minnesota Vikings, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
13. Cleveland Browns, Garrett Wilson
14. Baltimore Ravens, Tyler Linderbaum
15. Philadelphia Eagles, Devin Lloyd
16. Philadelphia Eagles, Arnold Ebiketie
17. Los Angeles Chargers, Jordan Davis
18. New Orleans Saints, Kenny Pickett
19. Philadelphia Eagles, Chris Olave

With a couple quarterbacks off the board, Kiper has the Steelers going with a quarterback who drew plenty of controversy during bowl season for putting himself, and his health, on the line and suffering an ankle injury. Take a look at Kiper’s pick for the Steelers:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

Like the Saints, the Steelers could immediately contend if they can figure out their quarterback position this offseason. Ben Roethlisberger appears likely to retire. I don’t see backups Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins as NFL starters. They do have a strong core on both sides of the ball, though. If they acquire a veteran signal-caller via free agency or in a trade, this could be a spot to target a linemen to help a below-average O-line, but let’s assume for now that they go into the draft without adding one.

Corral fits the mentality of what Mike Tomlin wants from his team. He’s tough. He took a beating in multiple games in 2021, even running 30 times for 195 yards in a win over Tennessee. Oh, and he’s a stellar passer, too, with touch, accuracy and arm strength. At 6-foot, he’s not the biggest quarterback, but he threw 20 touchdown passes and just five picks this season. Corral sprained his ankle in the Rebels’ bowl game but should be fine to work out at the combine. Because he hasn’t yet graduated from school, he’s the only one of the top QBs who won’t be at the Senior Bowl, but he’ll get his chance to show his skill set in front of scouts later.

For those who don’t know much about Corral, outside of his ankle injury and the controversy which ensued afterwards, here is a more in-depth scouting review on Corral, via The Draft Network:

Accuracy: He has done an outstanding job with regard to accuracy this season. His ball placement has improved drastically this season. He has improved at placing the ball where the receiver can catch it and be a threat after the catch.

Decision Making: His decision-making in 2020 was questioned and an area of his game he has needed to improve. He did just that in 2021. He’s avoided multiple-turnover games that plagued him in 2020 and has only thrown four interceptions this season.

Poise: He has played with good poise throughout the season. Even in the losses, he kept his composure—even when defenders were getting home. This helped him to rally his team when they were fighting in close games.

Progressions: He has done a better job this season of going through progressions. An area of growth for him has been taking what the defense gives him and not trying to do too much. Taking the occasional check-down or shallow route has also contributed to his better 2021.

Release: He has a quick release when he delivers the football. This helps him to get the ball quickly from the mesh and out on the perimeter in the RPO game. He also does a good job of changing his arm angles to get the ball out due to his lack of elite size at the position.

Pocket Manipulation: He does a good job of manipulating the pocket with his good mobility. He does a good job evading the inside rush and has shown accuracy on boots and other actions on the move.

Arm Strength: He has sufficient arm strength. He doesn’t have elite size or strength overall so some cold-weather teams may have reservations in this regard. He does show the ability to get the ball deep and in stride with receivers if he can get it up with good timing.

Mobility: His mobility is one of his best attributes. While he will not be confused with Lamar Jackson, he does a good job of threatening the defense with his legs. He is someone who has to be accounted for in the read-option because of his ability to pull it from the mesh.

Leadership: He has shown his leadership as he rallied his team through adversity, particularly in the losses. He has demonstrated on the field that he is willing to lead the team.

Mechanics: He has good throwing mechanics, particularly in his ability to throw from a good base and deliver the football down the field. He also has a quick release, which helps him in the RPO game.

So, what do you think about the pick? Is it a reach for the team? Should the Steelers have targeted other players/positions before looking at a weak quarterback class? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft and the rest of the offseason.