Kenny Pickett may be excited about the idea of taking over for Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers are more interested in giving Malik Willis that job.
The Steelers are one franchise that has an obvious interest in drafting a quarterback early in April’s NFL draft. Kenny Pickett would be the sentimental choice as a former University of Pittsburgh collegiate star. Sentimentality doesn’t seem to be a motivating factor for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ front office.
Reports emanating from the Senior Bowl this week claim that the buzz is that the Steelers “like” former Liberty standout Malik Willis. It’s still very early in the pre-draft process, but it’s understandable that Pittsburgh’s brain trust would prefer to gamble on Willis’ talent as opposed to Pickett’s polish as a passer.
Malik Willis could be the Steelers’ choice for Ben Roethlisberger’s successor
The downside to the Steelers’ interest in Willis is that it’s difficult to envision a scenario where he would be prepared to play right away. He has the size, speed and arm strength NFL teams covet at the game’s most important position, but he needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making before he’s ready to help at team at the next level.
Pickett isn’t a perfect prospect either. Concerns over his hand size continue to plague his draft stock and he won’t have them formally measured before the Draft Combine. His struggles to through during a rainy Senior Bowl practice didn’t do anything to quell those concerns for NFL scouts.
Even so, it’s fair to say that Pickett is more ready to play than Willis. Fans of his game believe he has a chance to thrive in the same sort of limited role that Mac Jones received from the Patriots last season.
The Steelers don’t have that type of comfortable ecosystem for a rookie quarterback. They need a player who can eventually elevate their offense due to his own physical gifts. Gambling on Willis to reach his full potential as a player could turn out poorly for Tomlin and the team’s brain trust, but he also has one of the highest ceilings of any signal-caller in this year’s draft class.
The Steelers picked a bad offseason to need to draft a quarterback due to the lack of an obvious superstar in this class. Willis may be the apple of the franchise’s eye at the moment, but they’re being forced to pick from a flawed group of quarterback prospects.