The 2022 NFL offseason is in full-swing, and the rumors and mock drafts are coming at us fast and furious. The 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is preparing to begin later this week, and there are plenty of relatively unknown prospects who will propel themselves into the national spotlight with extraordinary performances during the testing process. The Steelers will be particularly invested in the individual results, considering they have more overall team needs than they typically do.
There is plenty of speculation about whether the Steelers will select a quarterback from a draft class which has some intriguing depth, but not a consensus No. 1 guy. All of the quarterback prospects have strengths and weaknesses, and none seem likely to be ready and able to be a rookie starter. Therefore, multiple teams in need of a quarterback will be surveying the free agent market in search of a financially feasible bridge signal caller. For those who don’t know, a bridge quarterback is someone capable of holding down the fort until the inexperienced rookie is ready to take over the offensive reigns.
The Steelers could potentially be one of those teams.
A recent rumor has been making the rounds regarding the Steelers showing real interest in three Free Agent quarterback targets. Those quarterbacks are: Mitchell Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jameis Winston. I would personally throw Marcus Mariota into the mix of possible targets, but the focus of this article will be the aforementioned three players.
Mitch Trubisky was basically a one-year wonder at North Carolina who entered the 2017 NFL Draft after a breakout junior season for the Tar Heels. He had red-shirted his first year in Chapel Hill, so the decision to forgo his senior season wasn't shocking, although his overall development could have benefited from the experience. He was the 2nd overall selection by the Chicago Bears, a franchise definitely not renowned for outstanding quarterback play. Not long into his rookie season, he was thrown to the wolves, so to speak, and had to endure the heightened expectations of a ravenous fanbase.
Although Trubisky never enjoyed a star-studded supporting cast on offense with Chicago, he actually enjoyed his fair share of success. He led the Bears to the 2018 NFL Playoffs in his sophomore campaign, and earned a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl. He even threw six touchdown passes in a single game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he is considered a draft bust by many fans, he is actually the Bears record holder in career completion percentage and career QB rating. Although that speaks volumes about the Bears’ signal callers over the years, Trubisky had his moments, just not sustained success.
Trubisky appears to be an excellent fit for Matt Canada's offense. He is an outstanding athlete with a strong arm and excellent mobility. Still a relatively young QB at 27 years old, he could potentially resurrect his career in Pittsburgh and prove to be more than just a bridge player. That could be a preferable situation because no one really knows how long it will take for the Steelers to find their next franchise quarterback.
Teddy Bridgewater seems like the perfect bridge quarterback candidate at first glance. He is the classic game manager as a starter, but would seem better served as a quality backup with emergency starter potential. Although he has never possessed superior arm talent or athleticism, a devastating knee injury in 2016 with the Minnesota Vikings cost him two full seasons and robbed him of much of his already limited athleticism. He has never quite regained the abilities that made him the 2014 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, and 2015 NFC Pro Bowler.
Bridgewater is not an ideal fit for Canada's offense, which needs a mobile quarterback to reach it's full potential. At this point in their careers, Mason Rudolph has better mobility than Bridgewater, even if he often lacks the "feel" to navigate the pocket. Rudolph needs competition at the position, something Bridgewater could definitely provide, but it remains to be seen if he would be a step up from Rudolph, and wouldn't be a cheaper alternative. Therefore, I just can't see how Bridgewater would be a viable option.
That brings us to Jameis Winston. Winston is easily the most talented passer of the three quarterbacks being discussed. He won the 2013 BCS National Championship and the Heisman Trophy as a red-shirt freshman with the Florida State Seminoles. He was the youngest player to ever win the Heisman. His incredible collegiate success resulted in Winston being the first overall selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Like Bridgewater, Winston doesn't have the preferred mobility the Steelers appear to be searching for in Canada’s system. He is currently rehabbing after knee surgery to repair the ACL he injured as the starter for the New Orleans Saints in Week 8 last season. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it's a given the injury did nothing to improve his mobility.
Winston is an accomplished pocket passer with elite arm talent. His decision making and ball security have long been his greatest weakness, and the biggest issues holding him back from being a upper echelon quarterback. He has also dealt with various legal issues which have brought his maturity and integrity into question. Any franchise considering signing him needs to do an extensive background check.
However, there is some encouraging news regarding Winston. He appears to have matured as a professional after spending the past two seasons playing for Sean Payton and the Saints. He achieved easily the best passer rating and TD/INT ratio of his career last season. He seemingly blossomed with the change of scenery, and apparently benefited from his time spent with Drew Brees and Payton, two gentlemen who know a thing or two about playing the position. Similar to Trubisky, Winston potentially could be much more than just a bridge option.
The Steelers reportedly want four quarterbacks as potential options for their 2022 training camp. If the Steelers give Dwayne Haskins a tender, and he signs it, as expected, the Steelers could open camp with a depth chart of: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, free agent, and possibly a rookie. Based on the reasons listed above, and the impossible to ignore mobility concerns, I feel Trubisky would be the best option of the three quarterbacks rumored to the Steelers.