PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are still far from finalizing their 2021 list, with the final capping numbers still ahead of them in the free agency stream and the NFL project.
But one thing is certain: They’re going to add another quarterback to the room.
The future of Ben Roethlisberger, who turns 39 next month, remains to be seen, but that’s not stopping the organization from adding more quarterbacks to the list. With Devlin Hodges’ and Josh Dobbs’ contracts expiring, the Steelers contracted Dwayne Haskins in January to evaluate his potential, just as they did with Paxton Lynch in the first round of the 2019 season. Mason Rudolph is also under contract for another season.
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But the owner and general manager of the team, Art Rooney II, has admitted that the current list is not enough.
I think if you look at our space, it’s clear we need to expand that space with someone this season, so we’re going to take every opportunity to do that, Rooney said last month.
Although the salary cap doesn’t drop below $180 million, Pittsburgh still faces strict restrictions that could make it difficult for even a mid-level veteran to sign to compete with Rudolph for the starting position if the team parted ways with Roethlisberger.
When Ben was young, we always wanted a veteran behind him, General Manager Kevin Colbert said earlier this week. When he became a veteran, we always tried to have a young player behind him who might move up. A player like Mason Rudolph or Joshua Dobbs, now Joshua is back with us for his senior year. A player like Dwayne Haskins is a very talented player who was heavily recruited by Washington.
It didn’t work. There was a regime change, it was cut short, and it wasn’t risky for us. He’s a talented player and we’ll find out more about him when he’s here and on the field. Does this mean we cannot continue to strengthen this position? I’m not going to do that. Nothing we do during this time of freedom will prevent us from continuing the investigation and adding a player at that position.
Quarterback Jamie Newman, who last played for Wake Forest in 2019, could be a draft pick for the Steelers. Brad Penner – Sports in the United States Today
That leaves the NFL project.
The Steelers haven’t selected a quarterback since they took Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 draft. The year before, they took Dobbs in the fourth round. That reluctance may change this year.
The 2021 quarterback class is qualitative and quantitative, with more than 10 quarterbacks available and possibly five in the first round. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t expect the 2022 class to be as deep as it was this year for the Steelers, especially if the organization claims to be in win-win mode.
This group, according to Kiper, is better than the quarterbacks of the 2021 and 2022 classes. This group, Zach Wilson, had a great year. If Lance had come back [from North Dakota] – and I think he should have come back and gone to Ohio or Texas and played a year – but he didn’t. He’s coming out. But if he does, he’s a guy who can be number one for these guys next year. These guys are all better than next year’s group.
With the number 24 selected in the opening round, the Steelers, who rarely negotiate first, made a selection that also includes Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Justin Fields of Ohio, Wilson and Mack Jones of Alabama. Lance, a 20-year-old who played just one game during the 2020 season, could fall down due to his limited experience and age.
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With a later pick in the first round and more needs on the offensive line and back, Pittsburgh will not get value for money by picking a quarterback in the first round.
However, this does not mean he cannot use a third or fourth round – 87 and 128 in total – on the shooter. The Steelers could also get a compensatory pick in the fourth round at No. 141 to use as a quarterback.
Players like Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Kellen Mond (Texas) and Jamie Newman (Georgia) could do the trick, but Kiper thinks a joker in the middle quarterback group stands out: Newman.
Once you know you have it, you’re set for a long, long time, Kipper said. They are ahead of everyone else in the league. Look at all those changing teams. If you can find this guy, you’re in good shape.
When I look at the Steelers quarterbacks this year, if I don’t get one of these five…. I can’t trade one for another unless Trey Lance quits… …then I’d consider Newman. Newman will be an interesting guy for them at the end of the second, third round.
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Newman, an athlete with strong arms, made his final field appearance at Wake Forest in 2019, throwing for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his final season before transferring to Georgia. He also ran for 574 yards and five touchdowns.
But instead of testing his abilities against SEC defenses, Newman, 23, chose not to participate in the season because of COVID-19. With no recent openings, 17 career rookies and a greatly reduced NFL combo, evaluating Newman is a difficult task. The risk is high, but there can be a big reward, Kiper said.
He goes to Senior Bowl practice and he was everywhere – he was everywhere with throws, he was inconsistent – but he was rusty, Kiper said. Now that’s a kid with talent. Hasn’t played this year. He’s the kind of guy you roll the dice on, Jamie Newman.
I’m thinking: Hey, this is a guy we had in the draft, maybe in the third or fourth round, who didn’t play, and if he had played well at Georgia, he probably would have been a first or second pick.
The Steelers need to add another quarterback even if Roethlisberger returns. The new QB isn’t expected to make the 53 list if Roethlisberger delays his retirement for another season, but Pittsburgh should continue auditing quarterbacks for the future.
Rudolph is in trouble, and maybe Haskins too. Ideally, the Steelers could use a mid-level veteran like Tyrod Taylor to compete with Rudolph for replacement or layoff, but they may not have the flexibility to do so.
It has yet to be built by the project, a method Pittsburgh often favors. The post-Rotlisberger era hasn’t arrived yet… but it could be right around the corner. The steelworkers must get ready.