Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Replacing Big Ben, College Football Playoff Scouting Lists, and more!
Replacing a legend is never easy—even if that legend has overstayed their welcome and the fan base is already well-past the grieving process of losing them.
Ben Roethlisberger, speaking to the media on Thursday, remarked that this weekend’s home game could be his last at Heinz Field. This has been a long-time coming, with many in the league thinking for at least two years that the Steelers needed to start thinking about a long-term post-Ben plan.
Instead, the Steelers did what many teams do and loaded up the roster with veterans and by trading draft picks for proven stars. And, to some degree, it’s worked. The Steelers have a good defense, a cast of young offensive weapons, and a good head coach.
What they don’t have for 2022 and beyond is a quarterback. Today, we’ll explore the various options the Steelers have this offseason and why the best option might be sitting this one out.
Option #1 — Trade for a starter
This is the best option, and a quick fix if the right starter is acquired. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson are all expected to be on the trade market this coming winter. The same goes for Jimmy Garoppolo and potentially Kirk Cousins as less-attractive options.
Can the Steelers afford to trade for one of the Big 3 on the market? Yes, absolutely. While they don’t have the draft capital of the Philadelphia Eagles or New York Giants, the Steelers are a very attractive destination thanks to great ownership, a highly-respected head coach, a great defense, and a good young offensive nucleus.
Given the no-trade clauses Watson and Wilson have, and the one Rodgers essentially has as a 2023 free agent, Pittsburgh looks pretty damn good for all three quarterbacks.
Rodgers — Green Bay will definitely want to send him out of the NFC and while his leaked list of preferred destinations where west of the Mississippi, Pittsburgh gives Rodgers his best chance to win another Super Bowl ring in a hurry.
Watson — The rumor all along is that he wants to land in Miami, but second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has played well enough during the team’s seven game win streak that the Dolphins might not be willing to part with him and multiple first-rounders for Watson. If the Dolphins are out and the Carolina Panthers don’t throw the farm at Houston, Pittsburgh would be a great spot for Watson to get back onto the field.
Wilson — It really feels like Wilson will force his way to New York if he’s indeed traded, but if he makes a move based on the best football decision, the Steelers make a lot of sense for him. And while Wilson would no doubt be expensive, Pittsburgh has shown in the past (Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick) a willingness to push the chips to the middle of the table to acquire talent they want.
Garoppolo/Cousins — This is not really a super attractive long-term option, but if the three star quarterbacks mentioned aren’t shopped or can’t be moved, Garoppolo or Cousins would keep Pittsburgh competitive for the 2022 season. I would argue that losing for one year would better set them up for the future than banking on a mid-level quarterback, but we’ve seen too many teams make this move to write it off as a possibility.
Option #2 — Sign a starter
This isn’t the year to need a quarterback and rely on the free agent market—not that any year really is. But this year is really bad. Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater are the best quarterbacks on the free agent market and even they might be re-signed in their current situations.
Yeah. It’s that bad. Signing a starter would only make sense if it’s in conjunction with a high draft pick at the position.
Which leads us too…
Option #3 — Draft a starter
The Steelers are currently projected to draft at No. 15 overall in the first round. The 2022 draft class is notably thin at the quarterback position when it comes to first-round talents or “franchise quarterbacks”.
Kenny Pickett (Pitt) is a local product who saw his stock soar in his senior season, but even with Pickett’s production and experience many are still waiting to be impressed by his overall ability. The Senior Bowl will be huge for his evaluation. And while he’s been throwing in Pittsburgh for four years now, there are enough questions about his hand size and arm strength to question drafting him to quarterback the Steelers in the notorious Pennsylvania winters.
Matt Corral (Ole Miss) has a great combination of arm talent and confidence, but reports are already surfacing that the confidence is too often cockiness and that he might be a harder player to coach. That might be too much to deal with at pick 15 overall and with the quarterback job essentially his in this scenario.
Malik Willis (Liberty), Carson Strong (Nevada) and Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati) could all be seen as fits based on positive traits, but negatives—decision-making for Willis, a knee injury for Strong, and inconsistent accuracy for Ridder—make them gambles in Round 1 and as rookie starters.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, this is the worst draft since 2013 from a pre-draft standpoint to need a franchise quarterback out of Round 1.
And that’s why option No. 4 might be the best one.
Option #4 — Punt
Punt. Tank. Wait. Call it whatever you want, but the best move for the Pittsburgh Steelers might just be to wait and see what 2023 brings. Already scouts are more excited about Bryce Young (Alabama) and C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) than any of the ‘22 quarterbacks.
There’s also room for other quarterback prospects—guys like Spencer Rattler (South Carolina), Jaxson Dart (USC), Anthony Richardson (Florida), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), or Phil Jurokovec (Boston College) balls out and becomes a legit Round 1 prospect.
Mason Rudolph is under contract. Maybe the best move is no move at all and waiting until 2023?
Fixing the Pittsburgh Steelers isn’t all you get in today’s Scouting Notebook.
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