Could the Pittsburgh Steelers select a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft for the first time in 18 years tonight?
Ben Roethlisberger, a future Hall of Famer, retired after the 2021 season, fueling speculation the Steelers might draft a signal-caller on the first day for the first time since 2004, when the Miami (Ohio) quarterback went 11th overall.
If they do want a quarterback, they’ll have to do some waiting (barring a trade). The Steelers have seven picks, starting with the 20th in the first round. Here’s where the Steelers will be drafting:
• Round 1 (20th pick overall)
• Round 2 (52nd pick overall)
• Round 3 (84th pick overall)
• Round 4 (138th overall) (compensatory pick)
• Round 6 (208th pick overall) (from Chiefs, acquired in Melvin Ingram trade)
• Round 7 (225th pick overall) (from Jets, acquired in Avery Williamson trade)
• Round 7 (241st pick overall)
As for their original picks, the Steelers traded their 2022 fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for a 2021 fifth-rounder (where they selected Isaiahh Loudermilk), their fifth-round pick to the New York Jets in the trade for linebacker Avery Williamson and their sixth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for linebacker Joe Schobert.
Tribune-Review sports writers Joe Rutter, Chris Adamski and Tim Benz have dug into what the Steelers are looking for in the 2022 NFL Draft. They also looked at all the top players available at each position and put together who they think the Steelers will take. (See the stories below.)
The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off at 8 pm Thursday and will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network. Friday’s coverage begins at 7 pm and Saturday’s starts at noon. It will also stream on the ESPN, ABC and NFL apps. Follow @tribjoerutter, @C_AdamskiTrib and @TimBenzPGH on Twitter for live coverage of the draft.
Steelers beat writer Joe Rutter is bucking popular opinion that the Steelers will take a quarterback, with his prediction of a defensive lineman.
Steelers writer Chris Adamski doesn’t think the team will be able to resist the temptation of snagging a quarterback.
Here is a positional breakdown of the NFL Draft:
Quarterback Kenny Pickett goes through passing drills during Pitt’s pro day March 21, 2022.
“It’s a fairly dramatically less gifted group than it has been in the past,” agent Leigh Steinberg said. “You don’t have a Kyler Murray or Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert in there. We’ll have to see. It’s not to say (this class) won’t produce, but there was no one obvious quarterback this year as there has been in the past.”
Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III runs against Michigan on Oct. 30, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich.
The Steelers could lighten the load on running back Najee Harris with a dependable backup, something they lacked last season.
Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson catches a pass at the NFL scouting combine March 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Given the financial explosion at receiver, NFL teams have learned that one way to keep costs down is to trade away their stars rather than play big salaries. And then replenish the position with first-round draft picks and watch them develop while playing on their five-year rookie deals.
Colorado State tight end Trey McBride runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine March 3, 2022, in Indianapolis.
For the second year in a row, the Steelers watched a veteran tight end depart in the offseason. Unlike this time last year, they won’t feel obligated to replace him with a player taken high in the draft.
Interior offensive line
Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum (65) looks to make a block against Illinois on Nov. 20, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa.
Although the Steelers have beefed up the depth on the interior, it doesn’t rule them out from taking a center or guard in an early round.
Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal looks on from the sideline at the NFL scouting combine on March 4, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Unless general manager Kevin Colbert uses a draft pick on a tackle, the Steelers could be lacking in numbers at the position again in 2022.
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine March 5, 2022, in Indianapolis.
As the Steelers can attest, selecting an inside linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft is a risky proposition.
Jordan Davis runs drills during Georgia’s pro day on March 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga.
It wouldn’t be fair to say the Steelers ignored the defensive line in the past seven NFL drafts, but it also wouldn’t be truthful to say they made that position group a priority, either.
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson during warm-ups before the Orange Bowl against Georgia on Dec. 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Talent evaluators won’t make the same mistake this year with Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson that they made five years earlier with TJ Watt, who didn’t go off the board until the Steelers selected him with the No. 30 overall selection.
Cincinnati defensive back Sauce Gardner participates in a drill at the NFL scouting combine March 6, 2022, in Indianapolis.
The Steelers don’t have any urgency to use a high draft pick on a cornerback this year, and, based on their track record, that is a good thing.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton watches against Southern California on Oct. 23, 2021, in South Bend, Ind.
Safeties won’t be shut out of the first round three years in a row thanks to the inclusion of Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton in this class.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert speak to the media during their annual pre-draft news conference April 25, 2022, at Heinz Field.
“Quarterback is the most critical position in our sport,” Kevin Colbert said at a pre-draft news conference. “We have to get that right. Could we add somebody? Yes. Could we start the season without adding anyone? Yes. We’ll see where it all goes.”
Among the top picks are a Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer and the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
It’s not certain that Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis would be first-round picks in next year’s draft, which will be flush with better quarterbacks. So perhaps the Steelers should take a different path.
The Steelers can either do a showbiz draft (taking a quarterback early) or one that 100% benefits the current team.
This isn’t the year for the Steelers to spend big draft capital on a signal-caller.
For as much as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is embracing and advancing the quarterback conversation along with the fans and media, there may be a few underlying motives.
Malik Willis is unlikely to start as a rookie, so drafting the Liberty quarterback wouldn’t help out the Steelers in the coming season.
Bookies.com has quarterbacks in the Steelers’ top five potential picks.
Former Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett is drawing all the headlines, but there are several other Panthers who may hear their names called this weekend.
“Everything is paying off for him,” former Gateway coach Terry Smith said of Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker. “He’s getting ready to reap the rewards of some hard work.”
Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson, edge Arnold Ebiketie and safety Jaquan Brisker are projected to go in the first three rounds.
Deion Sanders did his part to make sure NFL teams don’t overlook players from historically Black colleges in this week’s draft.
Only 73 non-seniors declared for this year’s draft, the lowest total in nine years. Some are saying that’s due to the impact of NIL changes.
The Steelers have drafted as many players from Duquesne as Penn State in the first round. A look at every player selected in the first round by the Steelers.
The Steelers have been awarded 36 compensatory draft picks in the 28 years that the NFL has been handing them out, with the choices ranging from players who never made the NFL to one Pro Football Hall of Fame hopeful.