The Pittsburgh Steelers did something in the 2022 NFL Draft that they hadn’t done since 2004; they drafted a quarterback in the first round. With the retirement of 18-year veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after the 2021 season, there were many around the league that assumed the Steelers would draft his successor in 2022.
However, after the signing of Mitch Trubisky on the opening day of free agency this off-season, it appeared the Steelers may punt on quarterback and see how far the former 2nd overall pick could get them. But, in typical Steelers fashion, they surprised many and drafted Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick. Below I will argue why this was the right move and what it means for the future.
The majority of successful teams in the NFL over the past few seasons have had one thing in common – a quarterback on a rookie contract. Teams like the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Arizona Cardinals have seen varying degrees of success in the playoffs due to the fact that they have had great talent and a bargain price at the quarterback position. On the other hand, the Steelers have had a great quarterback over the past decade, but he’s eaten a large portion of their salary cap requiring them to have great success in the draft in order to stay competitive.
The Steelers will need to invest in young talent
Now that the Steelers will have a cost controlled quarterback for the next five years, they have the ability to build a team around Pickett that can help him mature and succeed. The Steelers already have the highest paid defense in football and that will likely continue as two-time All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will be due for a new contract next season. The Steelers also have wide receiver Diontae Johnson with an expiring contract after this year and he will demand at least $15 million per year moving forward. With a quarterback that will likely take up less than 5% of your salary cap, they can afford to pay these players and add additional players during free agency to bolster an already impressive roster.
Another big positive of adding a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft was the ability to utilize long-time general manager Kevin Colbert during the search process. As we’ve already stated, this is Colbert’s last official draft as general manager, so having the ability to rely on an individual who has been scouting college players for nearly three decades will pay dividends when searching for your next franchise quarterback. The last time Colbert drafted a quarterback in the first round, it turned out to be a Hall of Fame two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, so it’s hard to argue against his track record when drafting a quarterback in the first round.
Lastly, the Steelers have a revamped and ‘win now’ roster that will facilitate success for a rookie quarterback. After having over $50 million dollars in cap space going into free agency, they added high impact players at deficient positions. They signed three offensive linemen that will likely start Week 1. They sured up a questionable inside linebacker position and added significant depth at cornerback. All these moves helped cultivate a roster that is ready to compete in an extremely competitive AFC North.
Moving forward into 2022, the Steelers have an exciting and different football team. They will likely roll out a rookie quarterback at some point early in the season and there may be some trial by fire. However, with all the aforementioned arguments above, it’s impossible to argue that it wasn’t the right move to draft a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft.
Do you think it was the right move to draft a quarterback in 2022? Sound off in the comments below!