Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Draft Targets: Desmond Ridder

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For all of Brian's 2022 Steelers' Draft Targets, click here: Steelers' 2022 Draft Targets

If you've followed my Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Targets series to this point, first of all thank you for reading.  But secondly, you'll have noticed that I've discussed quite a few quarterbacks.  The main reason for that is the Steelers have outwardly expressed heavy interest in selecting one with that being their biggest long-term need.  However, another crucial reason for this is because of how wide open this draft seems to be.

Very few, if any, picks have been nailed down as draft day approaches.  There's been drafts in years past where it felt like we knew who the top 5 picks would be the week before the draft even took place.  Yet this year, it appears to be much more unknown.  I mean, nobody's entirely sure who even the first quarterback off the board will be.  As a result, I felt I should write up one more quarterback that the Steelers have been linked to, and have been very impressed with, throughout the draft scouting process.

To be honest, if you had told me when I first started this article series that I would be writing up Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder just a week before draft day, I would've thought you were off your rocker.  Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral seemed to be the clear-cut top three quarterback options a month or so ago.  However, as we know, the draft process is pretty fluid, and what Ridder has done leading up to the draft has put his name squarely in the conversation with the other three.

Ridder was very successful at Cincinnati.  The Bearcats don't play in the toughest conference, the American Athletic Conference (AAC), but they steadfastly accumulated win after win during Ridder's tenure there, finishing with a 43-6 record as their quarterback.  As a result, they often found their names in, or just outside of, the College Football Playoff discussions.  Ridder finished his college career with the third most wins ever for a college quarterback.  Not too bad, regardless of the level of competition you face.

His numbers weren't too shabby either.  Ridder started four years for the Bearcats, throwing for over 2,000 yards in each of them.  He amassed a total of 10,239 yards passing in that span, with 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.  He also finished with 2,180 rushing yards, rushing for over 500 yards in each of his last three seasons.  

Ridder showed the type of passing and rushing abilities that the Steelers have stated they're looking for in their next quarterback.  He fits the dual-threat mold pretty well, which is why the Steelers have been so keen on him.

But there's another aspect to his game that has certainly caught the Steelers' eye.  Ridder is believed to be the best decision-making quarterback in the draft.  In the NFL, ball security is everything.  You can't leave your defense out to dry, relying on them to make play after play if you're turning the ball over at a high rate.  With tons of experience, great decision-making and the physical attributes the Steelers are looking for, Ridder seems to check every box.

While he has certainly earned the movement up the draft board, the thought that kept Ridder down initially is that he is somewhat a middling prospect compared to the others.  He isn't as NFL-ready as Pickett is expected to be.  However, he isn't is raw as Willis is, but also lacks the upside that Willis has.  Therefore, some think by selecting him, you're placing yourself somewhere in the middle.  You're not looking to win immediately, but also not looking to take a chance on, and develop, a guy that could be a top-tier signal caller in years to come.

With all of that said, experts don't seem to think that is detracting the Steelers, as Ridder has been the guy that recent mock drafts have them taking with the 20th pick.  It makes a lot of sense on the surface.  He appears to have everything the Steelers are looking for in their next guy to fill Ben Roethlisberger's shoes.  Those are big shoes to fill, so they want to make sure they dot all of their i's and cross all of their t's before choosing their successor.  This is why there's so much speculation on who they'll choose, and why the choice seems to be changing every week.

Ridder checks all of the boxes.  Good passer, capable runner, top decision-maker, team leader.  So you'd think that this is their guy then, right?  If only it were that easy.  Next week, I'll discuss my final thoughts on the Steelers' first round pick and what route I think they'll go in.  

With how fluid this draft has been, there could be a new name being thrown around by then.  But I've started to convince myself, even through writing this, that Ridder could be the top choice for the Steelers, especially if Malik Willis is off the board.  Only time will tell, but it's time that Steelers fans start to seriously consider that he could be the quarterback of the future for the black and gold.