McShay: Steelers Like Malik Willis, Could Trade Up for QB in 2022 NFL Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 18, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Malik Willis #QB16 of Liberty throws during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

With Ben Roethlisberger retiring after the 2021 NFL campaign, the future of the quarterback position has been a major talking point for the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. 

While the team signed Mitchell Trubisky to serve as a short-term stopgap, it's unclear if he can be a true franchise option in the future. And as the NFL draft draws closer, ESPN's Todd McShay reported on Monday's First Draft that Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is their main target (6:54 mark):

"From all indications, Malik Willis is the guy. And we've talked about it a lot. ... Willis brings that running element. You already have a strong run game. You've got a really good defense. So why not bring in the quarterback in this class, the one quarterback that legitimately can give you a numbers advantage in the run game? ... Ultimately I think if Malik Willis starts to creep into that 10, 12, 13 range, the Steelers—if they like him as much as I think that they like him and like him as much as Hugh Freeze told me that Mike Tomlin likes him—they could wind up moving up to make sure another team doesn't jump up ahead of them to go get Malik Willis with that pick."

Where Willis might end up in this year's draft divides opinion.

Both the B/R Scouting Department and ESPN's Jordan Reid have Willis going No. 2 overall to the Detroit Lions in their latest mock drafts. Charles Davis of the NFL Network and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. each have him going No. 6 overall to the Carolina Panthers. And The Athletic's Diante Lee and Dane Brugler have Willis going No. 8 to the Atlanta Falcons. 

So any hope the Steelers may have about Willis falling into the teens, making it more realistic to trade up for him, may be a pipe dream.

Willis, for what it's worth, is reportedly visiting with both the Lions and Steelers this week:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From NFL Now: More on this week's visits for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Liberty?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Liberty</a> QB Malik Willis, as well as how deep the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lions?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Lions</a> are going on QBs... <a href="https://t.co/vfd0m4H11g">pic.twitter.com/vfd0m4H11g</a>

But there's no guarantee he's a top-10 pick. The NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah didn't have him coming off the board in the first round at all in his latest mock draft. His colleague, Lance Zierlein, projected Willis to go No. 16 to the New Orleans Saints. 

And McShay believes Willis will drop to the Steelers at No. 20. 

There's no doubt Willis has very real potential. The questions revolve around the competition he faced at Liberty and whether he'll ever put his array of tools together to become a consistent, high-level starter. 

As B/R's Nate Tice noted, "Willis is a toolsy prospect with a big arm and the ability to create with his legs. But he ran a simplistic offense and will take time to adjust to the NFL level."

Jeremiah added that he's a "thick, sturdy quarterback with elite arm strength and play-making ability" but added that his "accuracy is inconsistent" and that he's "is still a work in progress" despite having the most upside of any quarterback in the 2022 draft class. 

Dan Orlovsky @danorlovsky7

The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFL</a> nowadays-at QB-is about being a play-maker. The guy in this draft that has the ability to be that more than anyone else— <a href="https://twitter.com/malikwillis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@malikwillis</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFLDraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFLDraft</a> <a href="https://t.co/HXHVkqwpaP">pic.twitter.com/HXHVkqwpaP</a>

Get Up @GetUpESPN

.<a href="https://twitter.com/nfldraftscout?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nfldraftscout</a> sees comparisons between Malik Willis and Jalen Hurts 👀<br><br>"I look at him and see Jalen Hurts, someone who can impact the game immediately as a runner, as a thrower." <a href="https://t.co/Erpqtg7uXm">pic.twitter.com/Erpqtg7uXm</a>

The Steelers are an ideal landing spot for Willis. They have a short-term option in place in Trubisky and could bring the rookie along slowly, grooming him for a season or two. 

But to get him, they might need to be willing to trade into the top 10 of this year's draft. Whether they'll be willing to make such an investment remainsto be seen.