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Who will be the Pittsburgh Steelers QB in 2022?

Taking a look at the candidates do be the Steelers’ signal caller in 2022.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Thanks for making the last two decades a lot more fun.
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Perhaps it’s too early for this article (I know I’m nowhere near done thinking/talking about this past season). But I’m also thinking a lot about next year too. And it’s no secret: the biggest offseason question for the Pittsburgh Steelers is who will be the 2022 starting quarterback. The inimitable Ben Roethlisberger has hung up the cleats, and there’s not a clear-cut successor on the roster, or a slam-dunk choice in the draft.

Mike Tomlin has said more than once that he’d like to have a veteran take over. And I’m inclined to agree. The defense is arguably still a first rate unit (reinsert Stephon Tuitt and I expect their season performance would look wildly different), while the offense is talented but very young. When Big Ben was a rookie phenom, he also had an excellent D to learn on, but his early success was also partly predicated on a veteran offense, stacked with Hall of Famers (Jerome Bettis and Alan Faneca) and other Pro Bowlers (Hines Ward, Duce Staley, Jeff Hartings, Marvel Smith). That’s a lot of stability and leadership — a great situation for a talented rookie. By contrast, the current Steelers offense is young and needs a leader. I’m sure the right rookie could do it, but this seems like a job for a vet.

So that creates an interesting question: who could it be?

Two years ago, I published an essay in this space searching for the Steelers’ version of Jim Plunkett — a veteran who would be cheap enough to fit the cap, humble enough to sit behind Ben for a year or so, and talented enough to give the team a few years of high-end play after Ben walked away.

Now that Ben is gone, the question is slightly different: who is available to walk right in and take over a team that’s ready to compete for a title?

To try to answer this, I’ve broken possible candidates into five categories, thinking of all possible NFL quarterbacks: Top Tier Hired Guns, Career Resurgence Cases, Unproven Kids with Talent, Veteran Placeholders, or In-House Options. They’re listed below, with a tiny bit of commentary, and then poll to see who Steelers Nation prefers from each subset. I’m sure Kevin Colbert reads this stuff every day, so let’s tell him who we prefer.


First, a quick list of guys that I consider “off the table.” These guys are either too important to their teams, or have too much invested in them/committed to them for the teams to let them go:

Lamar Jackson
Tom Brady
Kyler Murray
Jaylen Hurts
Dak Prescott
Matt Stafford
Mac Jones
Josh Allen
Joe Burrow
Ryan Tannehill
Trevor Lawrence
Patrick Mahomes
Justin Herbert

So wipe those guys out of mind. The rest of the league, to my thinking, is potentially available. Perhaps not all of them will be realistic (or in the Steelers’ price range), but the guys above are absolute No’s. So let’s get to the rest:


Top Tier Hired Guns

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

These are the guys you potentially break the bank for. They could transform the whole makeup of the league if they suited up in black-and-gold. Unfortunately, they also could require a king’s ransom to acquire.

Poll

Top Tier

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Russell Wilson
    (495 votes)
  • 17%
    Aaron Rodgers
    (570 votes)
  • 12%
    Dashaun Watson
    (423 votes)
  • 18%
    Derek Carr
    (604 votes)
  • 35%
    None of these
    (1169 votes)
3261 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: Russell Wilson and Derek Carr would be my choices, but of course none of these guys would come cheap. And honestly, it’s possible that none of them will ultimately be available.

I like Russell and Carr because they’re both obviously outstanding QBs but they also seem like they’d be good leaders for this particular group. Carr, in particular, would be almost the ideal personality (I think) for this squad — confident, big heart, low ego, likeable. He’d be an instant Steeler. Wilson would fit in as well, but he might even be a better athletic fit for Matt Canada’s movement schemes.

Rodgers would be good physical fit too, but he’s such a wildcard as a person, and he’s only got a couple years left in him. I know he’s got a crush on Mike Tomlin, but I think he’s probably not a good bet. Meanwhile Watson might be my favorite actual quarterback of the group — in my opinion, there’s nothing Patrick Mahomes can do that Watson can’t — but man, he comes with baggage. I didn’t like Michael Vick coming in 2015; and I never knew what to think about Ben’s off-season stuff (was he a criminal or just kind of a jerk?), but I really hated that whole time. I’d rather not bring that drama back to town right away.


Career Resurgence

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

These are the guys who might be due for a career resurgence with a change of scenery. This is the Jim Plunkett question, to a degree. Or Steve Young, finding a home in San Francisco after washing out in Tampa. The more recent paradigm: when Tennessee traded for former first round pick Ryan Tannehill, who’d been fine in Miami, but had run his course.

Poll

Career Resurgence

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Baker Mayfield
    (116 votes)
  • 3%
    Daniel Jones
    (101 votes)
  • 2%
    Sam Darnold
    (64 votes)
  • 5%
    Tua Tagovailoa
    (154 votes)
  • 20%
    Marcus Mariota
    (583 votes)
  • 12%
    Mitch Trubisky
    (367 votes)
  • 18%
    Jimmy Garappolo
    (538 votes)
  • 8%
    Jaemis Winston
    (251 votes)
  • 2%
    Jared Goff
    (67 votes)
  • 2%
    Carson Wentz
    (73 votes)
  • 20%
    None of these
    (579 votes)
2893 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: Marcus Mariota is my favorite here, but Daniel Jones and Mitch Trubisky interest me too. All three of those guys are athletic and experienced, but played with lousy teams (especially Jones and Trubisky). Mariota is my favorite because he has a history of taking care of the ball, and he seems like a good guy with a low ego — the kind of guy who could come in and be coached.

I think Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization would be good for any of these guys that have spotty records (Mayfield, for example), and I think some of the “good enough” players could win in Pittsburgh (Garoppolo, Tua). But I’m not sure how high their ceilings are.


Unproven Kids

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

These guys have shown potential, but there isn’t enough info to make any of them a slam-dunk. As a success story, think of when when the Packers traded a 1st round pick to Atlanta for their 3rd string QB, back in 1991 — a 2nd year kid with five NFL passing attempts (two of them intercepted), named Brett Favre.

Poll

Unproven Kids

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Jordan Love
    (172 votes)
  • 36%
    Gardner Minshew
    (945 votes)
  • 2%
    Josh Rosen
    (69 votes)
  • 3%
    Drew Luck
    (96 votes)
  • 0%
    Cooper Rush
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    Trevor Simeon
    (10 votes)
  • 5%
    Taylor Heinekie
    (146 votes)
  • 9%
    Tyler Huntly
    (258 votes)
  • 5%
    Davis Mills
    (132 votes)
  • 29%
    None of these
    (777 votes)
2625 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: Gardner Minshew is my guy on this list.

Some of the rest look kind of interesting otherwise — Jordan Love could develop into a winner; Davis Mills has looked decent at times; Tyler Huntly would be fun to steal from Baltimore. But Minshew has a spark that I think would be exciting. He seems to have the same moxie that Duck Hodges had, but a lot more NFL talent. Maybe I’m predisposed to this type of guy because my first Steelers QB was Bubby Brister, who got by 75% on spunk. But I really can see Minshew being a legit NFL starter; and it would be really fun to have that happen in Pittsburgh.


Veteran Placeholders

Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

I wouldn’t want to count on these guys for more than a year or three, but any of them might wind up being a bridge to a draft pick or to buy time until a better option can be found. You won’t get more than a couple good years out of these guys, in my opinion, but you could probably make the playoffs with some of them.

Poll

Veteran Placeholders

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Andy Dalton
    (66 votes)
  • 8%
    Teddy Bridgewater
    (229 votes)
  • 5%
    Tyrod Taylor
    (140 votes)
  • 11%
    Ryan Fitzpatrick
    (285 votes)
  • 4%
    Nick Foles
    (104 votes)
  • 1%
    Blake Bortles
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    Case Keenum
    (74 votes)
  • 21%
    Kirk Cousins
    (550 votes)
  • 12%
    Matt Ryan
    (327 votes)
  • 1%
    Cam Newton
    (47 votes)
  • 27%
    None of these
    (694 votes)
2546 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: If we’re thinking of this as a 1 or 2 year rental (and he’s still able to play), then I like Ryan Fitzpatrick most. Fitz throws too many picks, but he’s always been exciting, and he’s both a leader and the right kind of fearless. I think he’d work (briefly) in Pittsburgh.

If we might try to squeeze three or four years out, then Kirk Cousins gets really interesting. Below them, maybe Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, or Tyrod Taylor. I don’t think any of these guys are game-changers anymore (Ryan used to be), but they all know how to play the game, and know how to win. Nothing would be too big for them.

I took some heat in the Plunkett article because I kind of liked Blake Bortles (who, in fairness, has a season with 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns, and has never thrown a playoff INT). I still think he could be really interesting in the right place. But if I’m grabbing one season or two — the Mike Tomczak bridge between Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart — Fitzmagic would be my guy.


In-House Options

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Poll

In-House Options

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Mason Rudolph
    (961 votes)
  • 28%
    Dwayne Haskins
    (758 votes)
  • 5%
    Josh Dobbs
    (157 votes)
  • 1%
    Duck Hodges
    (50 votes)
  • 0%
    Paxton Lynch
    (25 votes)
  • 25%
    None of these
    (667 votes)
2618 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: No one. I don’t have a ton of faith in any of these guys.

Haskins and Lynch would normally have landed on the “unproven kids” lists, but they have each spent time in town, and went nowhere. It’s still possible that Haskins might emerge this off-season, but he couldn’t pass Rudolph this past year; that’s not a good sign.

Rudolph also probably belongs on that list too, I guess. I think he’s better than we often give him credit for — certainly he’s better than Landry Jones ever was. The Lions tie wasn’t his fault (two teammates fumbled in field goal range during overtime). But I also think he’s got a low ceiling. Gerry Dulac says Rudolph is Neil O’Donnell, which isn’t terrible. But this isn’t 1993; you need a little more out of your QB than you used to. And I’m not sure Mason has it.


Draft Options (just for fun)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 North Carolina at Pitt Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Poll

Draft Options

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Kenny Pickett (Pitt)
    (1410 votes)
  • 8%
    Matt Corral (Ole Miss)
    (219 votes)
  • 5%
    Sam Howell (North Carolina)
    (145 votes)
  • 9%
    Malik Willis (Liberty)
    (228 votes)
  • 3%
    Carson Strong (Nevada)
    (94 votes)
  • 7%
    Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)
    (180 votes)
  • 1%
    Baily Zappe (Western Kentucky)
    (41 votes)
  • 0%
    Other guy I didn’t mention
    (15 votes)
  • 7%
    None of these
    (178 votes)
2510 votes total Vote Now

My Choice: I don’t have a favorite here either.

Pickett is local and that’s a cool story. Corral is fighting off an injury, and that’s also a cool story. I also like that Zappe is a small-school guy. But I don’t really know anything confidently. As I often say, I’m not much of a college ball fan, so I’m not the right guy to make this call, but I also don’t hear anything that says there’s a gem in here. But maybe you guys do.


There’s only one Ben Roethlisberger, and he’s not coming back. So whatever direction this team goes, it will undoubtedly look wildly different. The question now isn’t replacing Ben; it’s becoming something new. Some quarterback is going to help spearhead that evolution. Who do you think it should be?

Go Steelers.