The Pittsburgh Steelers could have a quarterback conundrum on their hands. Kenny Pickett, a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has not yet shown signs that he can be a franchise quarterback, at least not consistently.
Firing offensive coordinator Matt Canada did help in some regard to the offense getting on track, but Pickett didn’t see too big of an improvement in his production. It didn’t help that he got hurt in Week 13 against the Arizona Cardinals and had to undergo a TightRope procedure on his ankle.
That injury actually ended Pickett’s season. Mitchell Trubisky stepped into the starting lineup in his place and went 0-2. Third-stringer Mason Rudolph was inserted into the lineup and saved the team’s season, helping them go on a three-game winning streak at the end of the regular season and earning the No. 7 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Pickett not getting his starting spot back over Rudolph was certainly surprising, but head coach Mike Tomlin was looking to ride the hot hand. Could that change the Steelers’ perception of their quarterback situation heading into the offseason?
In the opinion of former NFL quarterback turned analyst Dan Orlovsky, it should. During an appearance on ESPN’s NFL Live, via Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan, Orlovsky listed three players the Steelers should be targeting this offseason to become their new quarterback; Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield and Justin Fields.
It can certainly be argued that all three options would be upgrades for the Steelers at quarterback. If they believe they are in a position to win now and want a veteran stop-gap option, Cousins is their guy.
Pickett could be the starter until Cousins is 100 percent healthy enough to return to the field after suffering an Achilles injury this season. It would also provide Pickett a chance to learn and develop behind a successful veteran.
If the Steelers are ready to move on from Pickett and want a young player with upside to replace him, Fields is their guy. While the Chicago Bears may not make Fields available, many people believe they will use the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Caleb Williams, making Fields trade bait.
Mayfield is someone the Steelers know well from his time with the Cleveland Browns. The player who took the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season certainly looked reminiscent of the Mayfield who led the Browns to a victory over Pittsburgh in the postseason three years ago.
The biggest difference between the three is what it will cost to acquire them. Mayfield and Cousins are both free agents, so the Steelers would only need cap space. To land Fields, they would have to surrender likely a Day 2 pick and have the cap space to sign him to a long-term extension.
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