The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally committed to finding their successor to Ben Roethlisberger. As the weeks tick down until the 2022 NFL Draft, Malik Willis seems to be emerging as the potential signal-caller Pittsburgh could snag.
Heading into the 2022 offseason, the Steelers are in a difficult spot. Not only are they doing extensive work to find their next franchise quarterback, but they are also actively searching for a new general manager. Kevin Colbert is stepping away after the NFL Draft and a regime change will bring new ideas.
It doesn’t help that the 2022 quarterback class isn’t strong. In fact, some NFL evaluators don’t even see a starting-caliber talent. However, the Steelers got an extensive look at the top passers (Sam Howell, Kenny Pickett, Carson Strong and Malik Willis) in Mobile during the Senior Bowl.
NBC Sports Thor Nystrom reported that the buzz throughout the Senior Bowl was that the Steelers’ interest in Willis was very real. It’s a sense felt throughout the league, with Pittsburgh’s front office reportedly extremely high on the Liberty quarterback.
“I know the Steelers absolutely like him…they like a lot of the things they liked about Ben Roethlisberger. Arm strength. Athleticism. Plays he can make in and out of the pocket.”Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline on Pittsburgh Steelers interest in Malik Willis (H/T Andrew Fillipponi)
While it’s possible NFL executives and scouts are speculating, Pittsburgh’s recent history is important to remember. Everyone around the NFL knew the Steelers loved Najee Harris months before the 2021 NFL Draft and they wasted no time selecting him with the 24th pick.
Who will the Pittsburgh Steelers starting QB be in 2022?
Based on raw talent, Malik Willis is the best quarterback prospect available in 2022. He doesn’t offer prototypical size (6-foot-1), but his level of athleticism draws some lofty comparisons to Lamar Jackson. The former Liberty star also boasts one of the strongest arms of his peers in 2022.
However, Willis is viewed as being less pro-ready than Trey Lance. While the San Francisco 49ers drafted the North Dakota State sensation with the No. 3 pick, he barely saw the field as a rookie. Factoring that into the evaluation, Pittsburgh likely wouldn’t want to rush Willis into the starting job.
- Malik Willis stats: 2,857 passing yards, 151.1 QB rating, 27-12 TD-INT, 878 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns
If the Steelers love his long-term upside, Willis is still worth taking a risk on at No. 20. However, he wouldn’t see the field immediately. It would push Mason Rudolph into the starting job, something the organization seems comfortable doing.
It certainly wouldn’t be the dream outcome for fans, considering Rudolph has a low 80.9 QB rating and 61.5% completion rate across 17 games in three seasons. If Willis is the pick and he lives up to his potential, though, everyone in Pittsburgh will be elated. One thing is likely, the Steelers won’t be swinging a blockbuster quarterback trade this year.