My Final Thoughts on the Steelers' First Round Pick Going into Draft Day

Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

The long-awaited NFL Draft finally starts Thursday at 8:00 PM and while there's been so much talk surrounding it, we finally get to see it all play out.  For the past month or so, I've written about a handful of guys that I could see the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting with their first round pick (if you want to check those out, or happened to miss any, check out the site to see all of those write-ups!).  But now with the draft a day away, I wanted to put out a summation of what direction I think the Steelers will go in when they're officially on the clock.

I've talked about it a little bit leading up to this point, but I want to mention once again just how wide open I think this draft will be.  Just on Monday, the odds flipped for who will be the player selected first overall.  For the past several weeks, the favorite was thought to be Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson but on Monday, the odds changed to make Georgia's Travon Walker the favorite.  Days before their name is announced and there's still uncertainty as to who the top choice will be... a true sign of the chaos that could be the 2022 NFL Draft.

With that holding true, it's nearly impossible to speculate what the Steelers will end up doing with the 20th pick.  However, I'll try my best to predict what they'll do based off of everything I've seen leading up to now.

After sifting through everything that those who cover the draft have talked about, and what the Steelers have said publicly about their intentions, I have to believe the Steelers are going to use their first round pick on a quarterback.  

Unless complete chaos ensues, everything they've done suggests this will be the case.  They've made a point to visit all of the top quarterbacks in the draft and skipped pro days of college football powerhouses to specifically see these quarterbacks on their pro days.

The top quarterbacks in the draft are (in alphabetical order) Ole Miss's Matt Corral, Pitt's own Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and Liberty's Malik Willis.  I've talked about each of them in my Draft Target series, if you would like to go back and learn more about any of them.  

Not only have the Steelers made it known that want a quarterback, but they've also stated that they'd like their quarterback-of-the-future to be able to both pass and run effectively.  While each of these quarterbacks features a good bit of mobility, some fit that criteria better than others.  As always, each player brings his own unique skill set and comes with their own pros and cons.  However, after writing about each of these guys and seeing the buzz surrounding the Steelers with all of them, I believe the Steelers big board looks as such:

1. Malik Willis

(significant gap)

2. Desmond Ridder

(less significant gap)

3. Kenny Pickett

(laying in a safety net under Pickett)

4. Matt Corral

Willis is expected to be the top quarterback to come out of this draft and the Steelers haven't been shy in showing their adoration for him.  I believe he has the greatest spectrum of outcomes for his career but his playmaking abilities with his legs, coupled with his arm strength, give him the highest upside of this crop of quarterbacks.  

Ridder provides a decent bit of the same, just not at as high of a level as Willis.  Pickett is the most NFL-ready at the moment, but with the Steelers signing Mitchell Trubisky in the offseason, they don't have a need for that right now.  

Lastly, Matt Corral has the talent to be a very solid quarterback at the professional level, but I just see all three other guys being coveted more by the Steelers, leaving him to be their choice only if those three are already taken.

That brings me to my next point.  With this draft being so wide open, it's impossible to tell who will be available when the Steelers are drafting.  From what I've been able to ascertain, draft analysts think there's just as good of a chance that the top quarterbacks are gone when the Steelers select as it is that they're all available at that time.  There's only a few teams that truly need quarterbacks but there's always a chance that a team could trade up to snag one ahead of a team that is thought to need one.

With how much the Steelers seem to like Willis, I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade up to get him, especially if they suspect he might get taken just ahead of them.  When selecting Devin Bush in the 2019 draft, the Steelers traded up from 20 to 10 and it cost them a first round pick, a second round pick and a third round pick.  I believe the Steelers would be willing to trade that kind of capital again to go from 20 to 10, if it meant they could secure Malik Willis.

While I agree with Willis being my favorite pick for the Steelers, I would like to see them go in a different direction if he happens to be off the board already.  Two other guys I really like, that I analyzed, are Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum.

There's no guaranteeing these guys will be available at the Steelers' selection, but I think it would be beneficial to shore up either the offensive or defensive line instead of potentially forcing a quarterback other than Willis,.  Especially considering they already have Trubisky in place for next season and beyond.  Plus the quarterback draft class for next year's draft far surpasses this one so there would still be plenty of opportunity to take a talented signal caller in the 2023 draft.

Again, it's impossible to predict what's going to happen with all of the uncertainty and potential trades happening prior to the Steelers selecting.  However, that should in turn make this draft a pretty entertaining and exciting one.  I know I'm looking forward to seeing what the Steelers do, whether that's trading up to draft Malik Willis or fooling everyone and taking a player that nobody suspected.  Anything seems possible in this year's draft.  

The first round always seems to drag on but be sure to tune in to see what the Steelers do and what the future of the black and gold will look like for years to come.  I'll have a write-up on Friday about their first round selection, so be on the lookout for that.