3 Best QB Options for the Future of the Pittsburgh Steelers
With Ben Roethlisberger seemingly having played his final regular-season home game with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, the franchise will be looking for a new starting quarterback for the first time since 2004.
Roethlisberger's run with the team will go down as one of the few iconic pairings between a signal-caller and franchise. He was the starting quarterback for the better part of two decades.
That makes the transition that is to come a daunting one. Finding the right quarterback could help the Steelers transition seamlessly into another era of competitive football, while the wrong choice could set the team back years, especially in a division featuring Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow.
According to Spotrac's estimations, the Steelers will enter the offseason with the 10th-most cap space in the league if they want to acquire a veteran signal-caller, while there could also be a long-term option available in the draft.
The Steelers could also just decide to improve the roster as a whole and roll with Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins, both of whom are already on the roster, but that would be a huge risk with neither having impressed during NFL starts earlier in their careers.
With that in mind, here are the three best external options the Steelers have at quarterback going into 2022.
Trade for Aaron Rodgers
It's pretty simple. If you have a chance to add a top-five quarterback in the league, you do it.
That opportunity may present itself with Aaron Rodgers. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Rodgers' plan heading into the season was to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl and then force a trade to another team.
That plan could have changed by now, but with Jordan Love still on the Packers roster, it doesn't seem far-fetched.
Rodgers might be 38 years old, but he's still playing at an MVP level. So even if he can only do that for two or three more years, whichever team he plays for will have a shot at the Super Bowl. For an organization as prestigious as Pittsburgh, that's what matters.
The Steelers already have an arsenal of weapons in place that would rival anything he's had in Green Bay. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are two exciting young receivers under contract, running back Najee Harris has been incredible with little blocking and tight end Pat Freiermuth could have a breakout sophomore season.
Rodgers is a California native and may just want to play for a team out west. But if he's looking for a team that he could win another Super Bowl with, Pittsburgh could be in the running.
Trade for Derek Carr
Rodgers isn't the only quarterback who could be available via trade. The Las Vegas Raiders enter the 2022 offseason with Derek Carr under contract for one more season, and they have yet to reach an agreement on an extension for the 30-year-old.
Carr's cap figure next season is a manageable $19.9 million. That would give the Steelers a year to see what the offense could look like with Carr at the helm and make a decision on an extension.
If this year is anything to go by, the relationship could be fruitful. The Raiders have had every reason to be terrible this season.
Head coach Jon Gruden resigned after emails containing anti-gay and sexist language over the course of several years were leaked. Emerging receiver Henry Ruggs III was cut after he was charged with DUI resulting in the death of 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog. Star tight end Darren Waller has also missed time with injury.
Yet, Carr is second in the league in completion percentage, fourth in passing yards and led his 29th career game-winning drive last week against the Indianapolis Colts to keep the Raiders' playoff hopes alive. That number is the second-most since he's been in the league behind Matthew Stafford.
The worst you can say about Carr is that the Raiders have only been to the playoffs once in his tenure. But that could be more of a reflection of the Raiders organization than it is on Carr as a quarterback.
Carr could reach a different level in his 30s with the help of a more stable organization and the better supporting cast he would have in Pittsburgh.
Draft Kenny Pickett
Once upon a time, the Steelers passed on drafting Pitt quarterback Dan Marino.
Instead, the Steelers took Gabe Rivera with the 21st pick in the draft. The Texas Tech nose tackle's career was ended by a car crash, while Marino went on to be one of the most prolific passers in NFL history.
Later, then-owner Dan Rooney would say that passing on Marino was one of the reasons he wanted to be sure the Steelers took Roethlisberger in 2004.
Kenny Pickett might not be the next Marino, but he is a promising passer from Pitt. The senior quarterback was a breakout star this season, throwing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
Both the yards and touchdowns broke school records held by Marino.
If the Steelers are going to target the quarterback, it's likely going to involve trading up. According to NFL Mock Draft Database, the most common spot the quarterback is currently being projected to is No. 6 and the Carolina Panthers.
However, this year's quarterback class is going to have opinions all over the map. The Steelers may have to trade all the way up to five to get Pickett, but he could also slide on draft day if other options emerge during the pre-draft process.
If the quarterback gets to a position where the Steelers are alright with the cost, taking a shot on another Pitt star could be serendipitous.