clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Based on traits, which of the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft best fit the Steelers?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for a QB, but which one best fits their needs?

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for a quarterback, and this isn’t an insider secret. In fact, the organization hasn’t hidden their desire for a signal caller in any way. Both Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have been on the pro day trail, and spending plenty of time with all prospective quarterbacks who are entering the 2022 NFL Draft at the end of April.

But that doesn’t mean every quarterback entering the draft is a good fit, based on traits, for the black and gold. Recently, ESPN’s Matt Bowen talked about traits of the best quarterbacks in the draft, and it is time to see who fits well, and who doesn’t, based on scheme and skill set.

Let’s take a look at Bowen’s breakdown by quarterback:

Malik Willis, Liberty

Height: 6-foot | Weight: 219 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 1

Willis’ best trait: Arm talent.

Willis has the natural arm talent to attack all three levels of the field. He can make every throw. He had 12 touchdowns on throws of 20 or more air yards last season, and the ball explodes out of his right hand on tape. Willis can drive it from the pocket, attacking boundary voids in Cover 2, and he will rip the ball up the seams on middle-of-the-field stretch concepts. He can really dial it up on deep ball throws.

Willis absolutely has the arm to be an NFL quarterback, but let’s not pretend playing at Liberty won’t impact his ability to adjust to the professional game. This isn’t the SEC, where Willis once played at Auburn. Willis is a project, and this should be widely known. Sure, a team like the Steelers would be a good landing spot for him to eventually take over, but outside of a package of plays, like Lamar Jackson had his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens, Willis will need time to develop.

Steelers System Fit: Yes

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 217 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 2

Pickett’s best trait: Ability to isolate and eliminate on full-field concepts.

The tape shows that Pickett has enough juice in his arm to make third-level throws and hit out-breaking routes. He also layers the ball on leveled concepts, and he has the movement skills to escape the pocket and create plays off schedule. His top trait, however, is his ability to go through his progressions, which allows him to deliver the ball with both timing and anticipation.

With experience throwing NFL-style route concepts at Pitt — and taking an aggressive approach on vertical concepts — Pickett showed the ability to read out plays with speed and find the matchup or open window.

Kenny Pickett has small hands, or so the draft gurus tell us, and this gives some people pause. But for all the criticism of Willis being a project, Pickett might be the most pro-ready quarterback of the bunch. Having a system which fits his skill set will be beneficial, and you have to wonder if a Matt Canada system is tailored for a player like Pickett. Not suggesting he’ll be available at No. 20, but if the board falls a certain way the Steelers might have a decision to make on a player they know well from his days at Pitt.

Steelers System Fit: Yes

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 211 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 3

Ridder’s best trait: Poise and composure.

Ridder is a pace-and-touch thrower who can generate velocity when he needs it. He also has detailed, efficient footwork. It’s clinic-worthy when you study his lower-body mechanics. Still, it’s the poise and composure, which coaches will tell you is a critical element to playing the position, that I focus on when watching his tape. That’s the ability to calmly move and reset the throwing window versus edge/interior pressure. The eye level in the pocket. The patience and awareness to work through his reads, while anticipating coverage voids.

Ridder has the size for the NFL, and plenty of big game experience playing for Cincinnati. But for many who break down film, they view Ridder as a player who lacks the accuracy to make all the throws necessary at the NFL level. Ridder’s draft stock has been rising since the NFL Scouting Combine concluded, and now many are expecting Ridder to the the third, and possibly final, quarterback selected in the first round.

Steelers System Fit: Yes

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 212 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 4

Corral’s best trait: Quick, compact release with short to intermediate arm strength.

Corral is a high-RPM thrower inside the numbers who can put juice on the ball in the short-to-intermediate pass game. He’s a rhythmic quarterback who can also throw with tempo and touch at the third level, and he creates consistent opportunities for his receivers to produce after the catch. That’s where he delivers a “runners ball” on in-breakers — crossers, shallows and over routes. Catch and go.

Corral is accurate with the ball, and has a release which is second-to-none in this draft class. However, most would agree he is a system quarterback. This makes you wonder if Corral would fit in a place like Pittsburgh. Either way, I think we can all agree if the Steelers were to take a player like Corral, it would be ideal to have it be in Round 2, not Round 1.

Steelers System Fit: Yes

Sam Howell, North Carolina

Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 218 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 5

Howell’s best trait: Aggressive mindset as a thrower.

Howell has the arm talent to attack down the middle of the field from inside or outside of the pocket. He has some sandlot-ball tendencies to his game, too, as he looks to create as both a runner and a thrower on second-reaction plays, with the ability to deliver the ball from various platforms. Howell can work progressions, and he looks to the third level early in his reads due to that aggressive mindset. Take the shot when it presents itself, even when extending the play.

Of all the quarterbacks covered so far, Howell is the toughest to truly get a feel for where he might end up being drafted. Willis, Pickett and Ridder seem to be the only three who could go in Round 1, and most would assume Howell would be a Day 2 pick. A team will take a flier on Howell, but like most quarterbacks in this draft class he’ll need time to develop before given a shot at taking over for a particular club.

Steelers System Fit: Yes

Carson Strong, Nevada

Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 226 pounds

Consensus ranking: No. 6

Strong’s best trait: Drive and velocity.

Strong has special traits as a pure thrower. His arm strength pops, and he has the ability to vary the speed on his throws. That allows him to throw lasers inside the numbers or deliver passes with touch, dropping the ball over the top of second-level defenders. And he can challenge every area of the field. There are some big-time throws on the tape, with Strong delivering the ball from multiple platforms. He can hammer it on seams or make throws from the opposite hash to attack coverage. That’s where we really see his ability to drive the football — with velocity.

Strong might have the build and arm for the NFL, but there are plenty of questions surrounding his mobility and the health of his knees. Strong is a player who could be the one who gets taken last, but when given the chance turns heads. With Matt Canada wanting a mobile quarterback at the helm, I don’t know how Strong fits into the Steelers system.

Steelers System Fit: Maybe

When it comes to traits, the Steelers certainly have options at the quarterback position in the upcoming draft. The biggest variable is how the board falls and where the Steelers are comfortable taking a quarterback.

But what do you think? Which quarterback of the big name signal callers best fits the Steelers and what they want to do on offense? 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 rest of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.