Updated: Dec 14, 2021
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
After 18 seasons as the Steelers quarterback, all signs point to this being Ben Roethlisberger's final four games in the black and gold. It will be a changing of the guard for the Steelers this offseason, as they'll look to find Roethlisberger's heir apparent. And the successor might just already be in the city of Pittsburgh. And no, I'm not talking about Mason Rudolph.
While it's been reported by Jay Glazer that the Steelers are not interested in starting from scratch with a rookie quarterback, if Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett falls to the Steelers in the draft, it should make things interesting. The last time the Steelers passed on a Pitt quarterback was in 1983, as the Steelers selected Texas Tech defensive tackle Gabriel Rivera instead of Dan Marino. The latter ended up having a Hall of Fame career, and unfortunately, Rivera's career was cut short due to a tragic car accident.
I think everyone would agree that Pickett isn't even close to being the caliber of a prospect that Marino was, but Pickett is intriguing. And according to Austin Gayle's latest mock draft for Pro Football Focus, he has the Steelers selecting Pickett at 15th overall.
"A consistent knock on Kenny Pickett will be that he’s a fifth-year senior and one of the older quarterback prospects in the 2022 class, but that shouldn’t keep him from being a top-20 pick in April’s draft," Gayle wrote. "A finalist for the Heisman, Pickett completed 334-of-499 attempts for 4,308 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He earned a career-high 92.3 PFF grade that ranked top-five among all quarterbacks in 2021. His PFF passing grade when kept clean was also among the best in all of college football at 94.3."
I'm not sure if Pickett would fall to the Steelers at 15th overall if that's where they end up picking, as the Texans, Giants, Panthers, Falcons and Saints all can be in play for a quarterback, as well. However, if Pickett falls, it would be interesting to see what the Steelers do. If you believe Glazer though, who is close friends with Mike Tomlin, it's very believable that the Steelers would ride out the 2022 season with a bridge quarterback and then draft a quarterback in 2023, which is expected to be a better class.