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Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Preview: Could quarterback be in play for the Steelers?

If Kenny Pickett flops, do the Steelers have options in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Tulane v USC Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?

Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.

Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.

Today, we are going to get the ball rolling with everyone’s favorite position to discuss: quarterback. Kenny Pickett is in great position for a breakout season, but if things do not go as planned, could the Steelers be in the market for a new quarterback? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.

First-round prospects

Caleb Williams | USC

Williams is not the tallest quarterback in the 2024 class (6’1”), but he is a solid 215 pounds and has proven his ability to withstand hits. Williams can layer the ball to each section of the field in accurate manor, and his arm strength is among the best in the nation. His footwork could use a bit of improvement, as is the case with several mechanical issues in his game. Nonetheless, Williams has a chance to separate himself as the clear-cut number one prospect in the class with a great season.

Drake Maye | North Carolina

Maye is built more like a typical pocket passer, but do not let his size fool you. He has more than enough athleticism to take off and make things happen with his legs. There are times when Maye struggles to get off his first read and get through his progressions in timely fashion, but another year in the Mack Brown/Chip Lindsey system should only benefit Maye. Barring an unexpectedly poor season, Maye should most definitely be a top-5 selection.

Michael Penix, Jr. | Washington

Penix, Jr., formerly of Indiana, has battled through injuries and is back in position to be a high pick in the draft. One of the most electric dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Penix is not only an excellent distributor of the ball, but he also displays great vision, both as a passer and runner. His age and injury history are not on his side, but a full season with consistent production could put Penix in the top-15 conversation.

Quinn Ewers | Texas

After all the drama surrounding Ewers and Ohio State, the Texas quarterback has perhaps the best chance of any passer to rise from a projected mid to late first round pick into a top-ten prospect. Ewers may not be an elite athlete, but he does display the ability to escape in the pocket and turn negative plays into positive plays. A naturally gifted thrower of the ball, Ewers checks all the boxes as passer. He just needs to become more than a one-read guy and display more patience within the pocket.

J.J. McCarthy | Michigan

McCarthy’s size, speed, and arm strength justify the hype surrounding him as a potential first-round pick. However, he must learn to take a little bit off the shorter passes and put more touch on the ball. McCarthy’s arm strength is easily seen on tape, but unfortunately, that arm strength is too noticeable on short and intermediate throws. He puts absolutely zero touch on his passes, and that will have to change in order to become a first-round selection next April.

Options for the Steelers

I do not foresee Kenny Pickett struggling in 2023, but if the Steelers happen to be in the unfortunate stance of looking for a new quarterback next offseason, Maye and McCarthy make the most sense in Round 1, as the team typically aligns toward that type of big-bodied quarterback. Another option in the back end of Round 1 or even Round 2 could be South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, a former Oklahoma Sooner who came on strong at the end of the 2022 season.

Which quarterbacks are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!