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Steelers Rumors: PIT Expected to Take Different Positional Need over Malik Willis, QB

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 27, 2022

Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the Pittsburgh Steelers don't have a clear long-term successor to Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback may not be their focus in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft on Thursday.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that Liberty's Malik Willis or Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett are viewed by some as possibilities for the Steelers at No. 20, but that "the majority leans toward Pittsburgh going with a different 'need' position."

The Steelers are in a relatively advantageous position given the state of this year's QB class.

Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder is the top-ranked quarterback on Bleacher Report's final big board, and he only cracked the list at No. 17. Willis was next at No. 48.

A run on the position could emerge early on Day 1. The Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks could all plausibly target a quarterback, and all three have top-10 picks.

Barring that development, the Steelers should have a few QB options at their disposal, and whomever they select likely wouldn't be viewed as a massive reach. NFL Network's Mike Giardi reported on April 13, for example, how the Panthers were looking to trade back in part because "picking a QB in top 10 might be too much but picking one in the mid first is more palatable."

But Pittsburgh could eschew the quarterback position to fortify up front.

The offensive line was 28th in adjusted line yards and 11th in adjusted sack rate in 2021, per Football Outsiders. A running game that only averages 3.9 yards per carry—tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL—isn't what fans have historically associated with the Steelers.

The defense, meanwhile, allowed 146.1 yards per game on the ground and 5.0 yards per carry, both of which were the worst in the league. T.J. Watt might be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but Pittsburgh would clearly benefit from shoring up the interior of its defensive line.

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