The Pittsburgh Steelers are entering unfamiliar territory this offseason. They will be looking for a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2004 when they selected Ben Roethlisberger with their first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
Since that point, Roethlisberger has been the team’s starting quarterback. But, he announced his retirement this week, putting a bow on his illustrious career. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer as one of the best players to ever don Steelers’ black and gold.
Replacing a legend like that will not be easy. There will be a lot of pressure on whoever takes over the starting job as filling Roethlisberger’s shoes will be nearly impossible. But, production-wise, this is likely something that will benefit the team.
Roethlisberger’s waning arm strength and mobility, behind a lackluster offensive line, didn’t yield great results. The Steelers have been buoyed by an incredible defense in recent seasons, so hopefully, the offense can get back on track with a new signal-caller.
Who could the Steelers look to bring in? There are three routes the team can take; free agency, make a trade or the 2022 NFL Draft.
The free agency route is likely the least enticing for fans. Jameis Winston is one name to keep an eye on there, as he would bring some a downfield passing element to the offense they have been lacking.
If they do not find someone they deem suitable as a starter in free agency, they could go the quarterback route in the 2022 NFL Draft. This isn’t considered a great quarterback class, as there are no sure-fire top-5 or 10 locks. However, there could be five quarterbacks selected in the first round.
With the 15th pick in the draft, the Steelers could opt to use their selection on one should they remain available. Kenny Pickett, who played in Heinz Field collegiately with the Pittsburgh Panthers, could be a target for them.
He is the most NFL-ready of the potential first-round picks with 49 collegiate starts under his belt. Pickett is a little older as a fifth-year senior, but was a Heisman Finalist this season and has a lot of tools to succeed at the next level.
The route that may accelerate the Steelers to becoming contenders the fastest is the trade route. Numerous veterans could be on the move this offseason via trade including Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr.
All five would be great options for the Steelers, who have a championship-caliber defense but don’t have the offense to match. Watson has serious allegations against him that cloud his football future, but at 26-years old, he is the best long-term option.
Short-term, Cousins is likely the answer. His monstrous cap hit should make him the cheapest to obtain in a trade, but he has shown the last two seasons he is a capable performer. Cousins finished fourth in the NFL this season in quarterback rating and is efficient throwing the ball.
If the Steelers want to go all-in on 2022, they should push to acquire Rodgers, who could be taking home the second consecutive and fourth MVP award of his career. He has worked wonders behind lackluster offensive lines previously in his career and would thrive with wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth.