As I begin this article, I can easily look to my right and see a notebook that’s opened to a page about the 2022 NFL Draft prospects.
I compiled this list in preparation for a mock draft I was going to do on the Hangover podcast last April. These rankings were from Drafttek.com, my go-to prospects site (mainly because the page loads quickly).
The first position on the list (naturally) is quarterback:
- Malik Willis, Liberty.
- Matt Corral, Ole Miss.
- Kenny Pickett, Pitt.
- Sam Howell, North Carolina.
- Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati.
- Carson Strong, Nevada.
2022 was the offseason of the quarterback, at least it was for the Steelers following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.
That offseason started off strong with the immediate debates about whether or not the Steelers should pursue a trade for Aaron Rodgers. After that debate ran its course, people started talking about the possibility of Pittsburgh pursuing Russell Wilson in a trade.
After that debate ran its course, folks reignited the “Aaron Rodgers to the Steelers” talk.
It sure made for easy writing for a few months.
All the while, the Steelers front office was hard at work scouting the top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft (a class that was said to be the weakest in like 300 years) and did its homework on every single one.
Hand sizes were measured.
Dinners were eaten.
Passes were thrown at every level.
The Steelers took a bit of a break from all the college quarterback scouting so they could sign an insurance policy at the onset of free agency; I’m talking about Mitch Trubisky, a veteran and former number-two overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But that only quieted the quarterback talk for a bit.
That talk again ramped up as the 2022 NFL Draft approached.
Which quarterback would the Steelers take?
Would they actually draft a quarterback?
Would they wait to draft one in 2023 (a class that was said to be the strongest in like 300 years)?
I talked myself into the Steelers drafting every single quarterback ranked above (well, except for Carson Strong), but I fell in love with Willis.
The athleticism. The strong arm. The great character. The high ceiling.
But I also couldn’t help but love Pickett.
The athleticism. The big-enough hands. The great character. The high floor. The University of Pittsburgh. The failure to draft Dan Marino in 1983.
Anyway, 2022 was the most fun I had following the draft in years.
You might say I’m a simpleton, and maybe you’re right.
I’m like most people who watch football: I spend 98 percent of my time following the quarterback. I can wrap my head around height, weight and athleticism. I can see whether he shows poise in the pocket or bails at the first sign of trouble. I can grasp the notion of a signal-caller being able to throw all the passes necessary to make it at the next level; for example, Duck Hodges, and the many out patterns that were intercepted by Tre White in that one SNF game vs. the Bills back in 2019, was an example of a pro quarterback who couldn’t make all the necessary throws.
I can buy into things like intangibles. “He’s a leader who just knows how to win.”
I, like most people, have a hard time understanding pad level and hip fluidity.
No, I don’t have a whiteboard in my basement. I don’t have a draft app on my phone.
That’s why the thought of the Steelers drafting Trevor Penning, one of the top tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft, seemed like quite the buzzkill.
Besides all that, what position in all of team sports is more transformative than the quarterback?
Good luck naming one.
You know how the Steelers Draft Season 2022 cliffhanger ended: They selected Kenny Pickett, the golden boy who was the pride of the Golden Panthers.
There was no question that the follow-up draft season was going to be a bit of a letdown by comparison.
It took me a while to get into the Steelers Draft Season 2023, but I’m beginning to like some of these new characters.
Joey Porter. Deonte Banks. Devon Witherspoon.
Paris Johnson. Pete Skoronski. Darnell Wright.
No, this year’s Steelers Draft Season is nothing like last year’s Steelers Draft Season.
Maybe that’s a good thing.
Let’s hope there isn’t another one like that for at least 17 more years.