The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason is in full swing, and with that comes draft prep, free agency, and so many other things before the next snap is played. For a team trying to return to Super Bowl contention you would think all their ideas would be under lock and key. But another year has come where it seems the Steelers are telegraphing exactly who they want with their first round pick in the next NFL draft.
A season ago, it seemed like everyone and their mother was reporting the Steelers extreme interest in Alabama running back Najee Harris. Of course, that is exactly who the Steelers took with the 24th overall pick. This year, at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, they started giving out strong feelings about a player once again.
Liberty quarterback Malik Willis had all the attention in the world from Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert at the NCAA all-star game. The speedy, big armed, and raw quarterback prospect is an interesting name to watch in a year that is considered a down one for quarterback prospects. There are no sure-fire first round picks at the position this season, but reports are dictating the Steelers want to make Willis one of those picks.
Malik Willis is (+3000) to be the next quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) February 9, 2022
(via @bookies) pic.twitter.com/Xor9iNVCMk
Regardless of what you think of Willis as an NFL prospect, there is a bigger issue at hand here. The Steelers cannot seem to stop tipping their hand to exactly what they want to do in the draft. Despite it working out last year, this has backfired in the Steelers’ faces before.
Think back to the 2015 NFL Draft, and the Steelers’ humungous crush on Houston corner William Jackson III. The Cincinnati Bengals also liking this prospect and knowing the Steelers’ interest in him, dictated the team traded over the Steelers to take the player, and the Steelers were left scrambling for a cornerback. The result? Pittsburgh took mega-bust Artie Burns with their first round selection.
The last time I actually felt somewhat of a shock at the Steelers first round draft pick is when they selected Terrell Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 draft. Since then, fans and media alike have predicted a trade up for Devin Bush in 2019, and standing pat for Najee Harris a year ago. If this trend continues the Steelers very well may end up with Malik Willis with the 20th pick. But if some other team also falls in love with the prospect, there are a ton of options to jump over the Steelers in the draft to land the player.
An NFL source told me yesterday that the #Steelers clearly prefer Liberty QB Malik Willis to Pitt QB Kenny Pickett.— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) February 3, 2022
If this has been some sort of long con, or nothing but a smoke screen, where the Steelers have been leading teams to believe their first round draft picks to make some other grand play, I would be really impressed. However, I almost 100% doubt this is what’s going on, and this team is getting sloppy with their blatant interest in prospects. Hopefully they can clean this up quickly, because I don’t want to see them lose out on another player they love because they were too obviously interested in him throughout the draft process.
But what do you think? Have the Steelers been telegraphing their draft moves a little too obviously? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.