Pittsburgh should pass on passers in the upcoming NFL Draft

If there’s ever a recurring theme in the National Football League, it’s that a team does as well as their quarterback. Even in what it is considered he “ultimate team sport”, quarterback is by and far the most important position on the field.

That’s why it should come as no surprise that teams will bet their entire future on landing that can’t-miss prospect: such as how the Carolina Panthers did to move up to the top pick in last year’s NFL Draft to select Bryce Young. Or take for example, the Cleveland Browns, who sent three first-round draft picks to the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson, banking on a proven veteran quarterback to take them to the promised land.

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While those two moves have yet to play out into championships for their respective teams, several more have fallen flat over the years. Who can forget Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance becoming the top three selections of the 2021 NFL Draft? Or perhaps the 2019 edition, where Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, and Dwayne Haskins were taken in the first round.

One year before that class saw five quarterbacks selected, with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson headlining their draft. Going back just a bit further, 2016 saw Jared Goff and Carson Wentz falling to teams who shipped off draft picks to move up for them, while others stood firm and took Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota with the selections allotted to them.

If most of these names don’t jump off of the page for you, don’t worry, that’s the point of this article. With the 2024 edition of the NFL Draft right around the corner, every analyst and critic is making predictions as to which team will do what with their respective picks.

Some of that media speculation has the Pittsburgh Steelers looking to add another name to their quarterback depth chart following a busy offseason in which none of their three rostered QBs from 2023 are returning for 2024. Instead, the Steelers are going with reclamation projects: veteran Russell Wilson and former first-round pick Justin Fields.

Wilson will attempt redemption after the Denver Broncos gave away picks, players, and a huge contract to pry him away from the Seattle Seahawks. However, Denver had seen enough after two seasons and cut ties with the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

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Fields, who was fourth quarterback taken (11th overall) after Lawrence, Wilson, and Lance in 2021, will also try to prove his doubters wrong after three underwhelming years with the Chicago Bears. A fifth quarterback was taken in that same season’s first round – Mac Jones – who is no longer with his original team either, while Lance was traded last season to the Cowboys and the other Wilson, Zach of the Jets, is on thin ice and likely would’ve been traded already if there were suitors.

Quarterback is the most important spot to get right for teams when building their rosters, but it’s also the most difficult position in the game to play. That’s why the failure rate of these quarterbacks is so high, and why the Steelers should avoid drafting one this year.

Despite Pittsburgh heavily addressing their quarterback room this offseason already, the speculators still think the team would benefit from using a pick on the position. But I wonder, if the Steelers felt this way, why would they go through the effort of moving on from their previous passers, such as Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, so easily, while acquiring other high-profile names?

It would suggest that the Steelers front office already knows what the Internet doesn’t, and that’s which quarterbacks will be available by the time the team is on the clock with pick 20. It’s unlikely they have the ammunition to move into one of the prime spots at the very top of the draft either. The betting line is that as many as four quarterbacks could be taken within the top five picks, leaving the Steelers with the fifth-best option.

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As is the case with the list above, teams have swung and missed even with their pick of anyone available in their draft class. Getting leftovers, especially an inexperienced player, isn’t the most ideal situation for a franchise that prides themselves on stability.

Yet, for those who acknowledge that the Steelers picks are best suited towards revamping their offensive line or adding a star wide receiver for their experienced quarterbacks on the roster, they still believe the team will target the position.

Value can be found in later rounds – or can it?

Some popular names get thrown around as perhaps falling in the draft. But if a Bo Nix falls into the second round, what does that say about 31 other teams who passed on taking him? Furthermore, should Pittsburgh dip their toes into the QB pool with a mid-round pick, what guarantees them that it turns out any differently than Mason Rudolph or Joshua Dobbs, both of whom were taken with third and fourth round selections respectively?

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A first-round pick didn’t work out very well with Pickett either.

That’s why the team should opt out of the quarterback chase this season. Should Wilson or Fields prove their doubters wrong, then the Steelers will have solidified their quarterback position for at least a few more seasons into the future before they have to kick the draft can down the road again.

The risk is that they pass on a value pick in 2024 who could be in position to play in 2025, but that’s assuming they sit and learn while the other two quarterbacks fail.

The other risk is that the team passes on a starter-capable contributor, such as an offensive tackle, with the top picks, and instead takes a quarterback who will never see a snap ahead of Wilson or Fields in 2024. That would be a wasted pick, and one the team should avoid using on a quarterback.

Let’s see how the newly added passers pan out this upcoming season first before we jump head-first into the trap of drafting a quarterback.

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