Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers bucked the conventional wisdom that dominate the rest of the NFL: Namely that there were no first round worthy quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Looking no further than their own back yard, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin begged to differ and the Steelers used a first round pick on a quarterback for the first time since the 2004 NFL Draft.
The draft is almost upon us again – should the Steelers use one of their seven picks on a quarterback in 2023? Let’s take a look.
Steelers Depth Cart at Quarterback: The Starter
Quarterback was a clear need for the Steelers entering the 2022 NFL Draft. Yet, if you take Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin at their word, they never expected to get the one they wanted.
- When Kenny Pickett fell to them at the 20th pick, they wasted little time in calling his name.
Yes, the franchise that passed on the chance to replace Terry Bradshaw with Pitt-star Dan Marino easily went all in on replacing Ben Roethlisberger with Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.
At first glance, Pickett’s rookie statistics appear quite pedestrian. His record as a starter was 7-5. One of those wins was the upset against the Buccaneers and one of those losses was against the Ravens at home. Both were games where Pickett couldn’t finish due to concussions.
During 2022 Pickett threw 389 passes, completed 245 of them for a 63% completion rate, while throwing 7 touchdowns an 9 interceptions.
- Yes, those numbers look pedestrian indeed.
But there are also truths that aren’t self-evident in these stats. Only one of those 8 interceptions came before the bye week. And even during that pre-bye week stretch of starts, Pickett’s poise was always present in his play. As Craig Wolfey commented after the loss to the Dolphins, Pickett may have thrown two interceptions in the 4th quarter, but the game never looked too big for him.
And twice, late in the season playing under harsh AFC North winter conditions, Kenny Pickett rallied this team for victory in the 4th quarter, and he looked natural doing it.
Steelers Quarterback Depth Chart: The Backup
One of the Steelers first moves in free agency in the spring of 2022 was to sign Mitch Trubisky to a 2-year contract. As Mike Tomlin later explained, they moved to sign Trubsky to “prevent us from doing something stupid in the draft.”
(That’s a sound strategy, because when you reach, Jarvis Jones or Artie Burns happen.)
- Extreme highs and extreme lows defined Trubisky’s tenure in 2022.
He looked “OK” in the season-opening upset of the Bengals, but couldn’t rally the team to a victory in a very winnable game against the Patriots. The offense struggled against the Browns and the Jets, which led to his benching, in favor of Pickett.
Yet Trubisky played exceptionally well against the Buccaneers, after Pickett got hurt. But Trubisky was horrible in relief against the Ravens.
But against the Carolina Panthers, with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren running strong, Trubisky did an exceptional job, completing 17 of 22 passes for an economic 179 yards and one touchdown. The kind of performance you’d like and expect to see out of your backup.
The Steelers 2023 Quarterback Draft Needs
Much of the rest of the NFL might consider it quaint, but the Pittsburgh Steelers believe in carrying 3 quarterbacks. And the Mike Tomlin era has seen the Golden Age of Steelers third string quarterbacks, with Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, Landry Jones, Devlin Hodges all beginning seasons as third stringers, only to start meaningful games during the year.
Thus far Mason Rudolph remains unsigned and even if the Steelers are open to bringing him back, would he really wanted to serve as a third string quarterback?
We probably won’t know until after the draft.
The Steelers neither have a 5th nor 6th round pick and they are certainly not drafting a quarterback on day one or day two. Could the Steelers find a viable 3rd string quarterback with one of their 2 7th round picks.
- Stranger things have happened.
With that said, the Steelers need at quarterback going into the 2023 NFL Draft should be considered as Fair.