The Options at Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022

Steelers Next Quarterback
Spread the love

The Pittsburgh Steelers need sound, experienced players at several positions following the 2021 season. Their 42-21 first-round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs exploited their weak spots, both on offense and defense. Pittsburgh sported one of the worst run defenses in the league, and their secondary has many valuable free agents who may look to go somewhere else. Plus, the Steelers need to upgrade their offensive line to bolster their rushing attack. Even with all of these holes, one of the main focuses of the front office will be the quarterback. With Ben Roethlisberger, who has been the Steelers quarterback for 18 years, announcing his retirement on Thursday, the Steelers will have to look at other sources to become the new captain of the offense.

Who Will Be Under Center for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022?

Offseason Outlook

The Steelers have so many options available at quarterback next year, but each one comes with a high-risk, high-reward outlook. Pittsburgh currently has three other quarterbacks on the roster. Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, and Josh Dobbs were Big Ben’s backups/understudies this past season. Whether or not they are ready to take on the role of being the starter is up for debate. None of the three have shown that they should be the starter, but they are all still very talented and have not been given chances yet.

If Pittsburgh finds Roethlisberger’s replacement in a guy who’s on the active roster, then they will likely roll with him. A quarterback who knows a system and a team performs so much better than a guy who is thrown into a new system. However, if the Steelers do not have enough confidence in Rudolph, Haskins, or Dobbs, they will have to look at outside sources, namely from free agency, trades, or the draft, to find Big Ben’s successor. The Steelers will have an estimated $46 million in cap space to spend, but they cannot blow it all on a quarterback. The front office and the Steelers coaches have to make a well-planned, logical decision that doesn’t waste too much cap space or too many draft picks.

Veteran Options

Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is a one-time Super Bowl champion and has consistently been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the past few years, even at age 38. This season, Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards and had an exceptional 37:4 touchdown to interception ratio. There has been tension between Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers organization in the past few years. If Rodgers is looking to go somewhere else this offseason, the Steelers have already been linked in talks with him. Rodgers does still have one year of his contract left, so Pittsburgh would have to trade for him and likely give up some valuable draft picks. However, if Rodgers can come to the Steelers (although it seems unrealistic), he would instantly boost the struggling offense and help the Steelers become contenders again.

Russell Wilson

Wilson has also won one Super Bowl (two appearances) with his current team, the Seattle Seahawks. But both the Seahawks and Wilson struggled this year, and they are considering parting ways. However, Wilson is still under contract through the 2022-2023 season, so once again, the Steelers would have to trade for him. Wilson is only 34, so he could still give the Steelers four-to-six productive years should he stay long-term. He has one of the best arms in the NFL, and can also move around pretty well. Despite his less-productive stats in 2021, he still has the talents to be one of the league’s best.

Kirk Cousins

Cousins was one of the most underrated quarterbacks this season. He led the Minnesota Vikings to just an 8-9 record, but the veteran experience is still there. Cousins threw 33 touchdowns as opposed to seven interceptions and is also known to have good decision-making in the pocket. While he doesn’t sport the greatest skills out of all the candidates, he is still a capable, experienced, veteran quarterback who can help lead a good team to victory. Cousins has one more year left on his contract, which means that a trade would be needed to acquire him. Both the Steelers and their rivals, the Cleveland Browns, have been linked in talks to bring him to either squad.

Derek Carr

Derek Carr is entering the final year of his contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. This year, he led the Raiders to a 10-7 record and a postseason berth, throwing for 4,804 yards along the way. Carr has tremendous arm talent and could bolster the Steelers offense. He did, however, have a 23:14 TD-INT ratio, which is not great. However, the Steelers have several more dependable options at receiver than the Raiders do, and Carr could ease into a sound system should he come to the Steel City.

Deshaun Watson

Where (or even if) Deshaun Watson will be playing next season is a complete mystery. He has been fighting 20+ civil lawsuits this year, which are all related to him allegedly sexually assaulting women during massages over the years. There isn’t much news about Watson’s case, but there is still hope for him that he could one day come back (provided he is proven innocent/the lawsuits are settled).

Watson is a fantastic, young quarterback with a great arm and exceptional mobility. He played like a top-three quarterback in 2020, but that means his price will be high. The Houston Texans are willing to trade Watson, but their asking price is absurd. They had originally been asking for multiple high-round picks (even first-round draft picks), and some starting-caliber depth at other positions. It is unlikely that any team would fork up that much unless his asking price is lowered.

Proven/Capable Starters

Jimmy Garoppolo

Garoppolo is a good bridge option for the Steelers, but he is not likely the answer long-term. He struggles stat-wise and has yet to show anything special during the San Francisco 49ers playoff run. The Steelers would have to trade for Garoppolo, but his price is likely lower and the Steelers can get a good value out of him should they develop him.

Teddy Bridgewater + Jameis Winston

Both Bridgewater and Winston were having pretty successful seasons before their injuries. Bridgewater played very well for the New Orleans Saints in 2020, and then signed a deal with the Denver Broncos for 2021. He played pretty well, but he is older and is also injury-prone. Jameis Winston has had a so-so career, but he was having a great year with the Saints this year before his injury. Both will be free agents this offseason, so the Steelers could sign either of them, for a lower price, as a bridge option while potentially developing a younger option.

Current Backups

Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky is currently the Buffalo Bills backup, but he will be a free agent this offseason. He had a few nice years with the Chicago Bears before he was let go following the 2020 season. His most impressive year, 2018, saw Trubisky throwing for 3200+ yards and 24 touchdowns. He certainly has potential, and with a good coach could become a viable option for the Steelers come next season.

Marcus Mariota

Mariota was the starter for the Tennessee Titans for four full years. Over that span, he threw for 69 touchdowns and was also a great, mobile runner. He has been the backup for the Las Vegas Raiders for two years now, and he occasionally gets in for some option packages and trick plays. He will be a free agent this offseason and is considered to be one of the top targets for Pittsburgh. Mariota certainly deserves a second shot, and he will likely be looking for another one in 2022.

Gardner Minshew

Minshew is currently the backup for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he can easily be traded for. He is expected to be worth a third-to-fifth-round pick at best. Minshew has shown flashes of greatness throughout his short career, though, and could be a viable option as Pittsburgh’s starter. He threw 37 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in two years as the Jacksonville Jaguars starter. His completion percentage is lower, but accuracy and some other skills can easily be developed by sound coaching.

Rookies (2022 Draft)

Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Malik Willis, Carson Strong, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell

These six rookie quarterbacks all have outstanding potential. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, and each could help (or harm) the Steelers offense in various ways. Pickett, Corral, and Willis seem the most NFL-ready options. However, with Pittsburgh picking 20th in the first round, Pickett (and potentially the other guys too) will likely not be around. Because the Steelers are lower in the draft order, it’s not likely that they go for a rookie this year. Chris Trapasso, of CBS Sports, has put together a nice piece that provides some insight and notes on each of the declared quarterbacks in next year’s draft. It includes a comparison of each prospect to a current NFL star.

Bailey Zappe, out of Western Kentucky, and Anthony Brown, out of Oregon, have also declared for the draft. However, they are ranked much lower than the others and project as mid-to-late round picks.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images