There’s one thing that remains quite clear as the 2022 NFL Draft fast approaches: The quarterback class is a polarizing one.
Yes, sir, these quarterbacks certainly have their champions, but they also have their detractors (or, haters, in social media speak).
It’s quite the year to have a quarterback class that lacks one or two sure-fire candidates like Peyton Manning or Joe Burrow (probably, anyway), especially since this is the first time in nearly two decades that the Steelers could really use a new quarterback. That’s right, unless Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph takes the football from the just-retired Ben Roethlisberger and immediately runs (or passes) with it, the Steelers are going to need to make a major commitment and draft a prospective franchise quarterback in the not-so-distant future.
Just not this year.
At least that’s been the popular sentiment for the past few months heading into the draft.
Just continue to build your foundation and fortify your roster now and go after your quarterback next year. Ah, yes, that very popular quarterback class of 2023, a class that will include Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, among others.
That’s when you pull the trigger: 2023.
But why not pull the trigger now? There are no guarantees about next year’s class of quarterbacks. Heck, it wasn’t long ago that UNC’s Sam Howell was projected to be taken fairly high in the 2022 NFL Draft. That was before Howell played the 2021 season for the Tar Heels and turned enough folks off that he’s now a borderline first-round pick heading into Thursday evening.
Remember when Sam Darnold was the toast of the 2018 NFL Draft for many months (maybe even years) leading up to the event? Darnold was ultimately joined by Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson and became part of what was considered to be a strong class of quarterbacks. Here we are today, and only Allen and Jackson have had what would be considered to be accomplished careers. Meanwhile, Mayfield is currently looking for a new home, Darnold is under-performing for his second NFL team, and Josh Rosen, who has had stints with five organizations, is currently a free agent.
That brings me back to the 2022 crop of quarterbacks, a group that includes Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder and Howell. I’d say at least three of those guys will be picked in the first round.
How do the Steelers feel about the group as a whole? Maybe that’s immaterial if they feel strongly about one player in particular. What if that quarterback is available when Pittsburgh’s time on the clock begins on Thursday night? Do they take him, or do they wait until 2023 to find their man?
I say they take him and sprint up to the podium to do so. This isn’t about drafting a quarterback just because you think you need one. This is about trusting in yourself and your abilities to develop a prospect you feel strongly about into the player you need him to be to lead your franchise into the future. That’s the ultimate goal. As cliched as it is to say, a team is nothing without a franchise quarterback. Even the strongest foundation in the world is probably not going to get you where you need to go if you’re structurally unsound at the very top of the roster. Even better, a really good quarterback can cover up a lot of cracks and smooth over some rocky pavement.
Should they trade up for someone like Willis, who they’re reportedly very smitten with? Sure, why not? If you’re worried about draft value, let me tell you that this won’t matter if Willis changes the fortunes of the Steelers franchise sooner rather than later. Does anyone remember what the Steelers traded away to move up in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft in order to select Troy Polamalu?
I do not know, nor do I care.
The Steelers are the only ones who will have to live with their decision on drafting or not drafting a quarterback this year. They can’t worry about outside noise, including the fans and media. They can’t concern themselves with reactions or grades.
They just have to get their man, which just so happens to be THE MAN in professional football.
People love to talk about the 1983 quarterback class, and rightfully so. But Todd Blackledge and Tony Eason were also part of that crop of quarterbacks drafted in the first round.
The Steelers don’t have to draft the entire 2022 quarterback class. They only have to draft one person. Will it be a risk? Sure, but it’s always going to be a risk no matter when and which passer they select. If their man is sitting there for the taking on Thursday night, that’s something they can control right now. Who knows what slot they’ll be drafting in next spring and which quarterback or quarterbacks will even be there?
The sooner the Steelers find their next franchise quarterback, the sooner they can restart their journey as NFL contenders.
And the sooner we can all stop focusing on future quarterback classes.