It’s an AFC quarterback arms race – Steelers are far behind
That was true before Friday’s shocking news of Deshaun Watson heading to Cleveland, the team he reportedly rejected before making a U-turn ($230 million guaranteed is one heck of a change of heart). notice a man). But Watson’s decision is just the exclamation mark of an obvious assertion.
It’s a QB-centric world. The AFC is full of top guys. And the Steelers don’t have one.
To quote George Carlin and apply it to NFL passer country:
“It’s a big club. And you’re not in it.
Jot down a list of the ten best quarterbacks in football and most are now from the AFC: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson. All great talents. All in the Steelers conference. Three in the division.
Six times a year for the next five years, and likely longer, the team will face Watson, Burrow and Jackson. Sure, they got Jackson’s number, but he’s still a threat with his legs while Burrow is becoming an elite quarterback and Watson – there’s a reason he got the most biggest contract in history despite 22 allegations of sexual harassment/assault against him.
Will the Steelers have a good defense? Sure. 2022, at least, though anything beyond that is a total projection. But the name of the game is the quarterback game. This separates suitors from suitors. It doesn’t take long to find out which side Pittsburgh is currently on.
Don’t make a mistake. The Steelers aren’t stupid. They to know the position they are in. They enjoyed the benefits of having a franchise quarterback for 18 years and all the doors it opened for them. Made receivers look better. Encouraged players to sign and stay in Pittsburgh. Always kept the Super Bowl window open and justified the team’s overall approach to every signing and trade.
Now this team is back to square one. And for all their strong free agent signings, nothing against James Daniels, Myles Jack, even the veteran bridge attempt with Mitch Trubisky can be praised and appreciated. But nothing matters until you get your quarterback. Without one, you can compete for a Wild Card spot, be on the hunt, convince yourself that if *all* goes well, there’s a chance (“The playoffs are a one-game elimination!” you say out loud).
But Super Bowls are won by top quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have all won the last four Super Bowls. There are occasional surprises and hot streaks, Nick Foles’ improbable run in 2017, Peyton Manning’s withered wrap who mounted an excellent defense to win the year before. As the years pass, the quarterback game becomes all the more crucial and the AFC has never seen a landscape quite like this.
There is a risk in feeling obligated to do something. Bad decisions are usually on the other end, like the panic of the team that drafted CB Artie Burns years ago. But there’s an undeniable urgency for the Steelers to try to find their franchise quarterback. And quick. It will almost certainly come in the first round. Of all the QBs I listed, all but Wilson were in the Top 32.
So that’s the Steelers’ mission. That siren started blaring last season, knowing that Ben Roethlisberger was entering his senior year, and it’s howling now that Roethlisberger is officially gone. I expect the team to try to achieve this goal. It will look like an aggressive move in the first round of next month’s draft, likely centering on Liberty’s Malik Willis. It comes with risks and isn’t ready for day 1, but it has the highest ceiling and best traits in this class – arm, mobility, ability to make routine look “wow”, constantly thriving outside the structure. If quarterbacking isn’t ultimately the answer in 2022, then 2023 has to be the year. It is expected to be a strong class, Bryce Young and CJ Stroud, but it will cost more to acquire them. For Pittsburgh, everything has to be on the table.
In the NFL, there are two types of teams. Those with franchise quarterbacks. And those without. The AFC has a bunch in this first camp. Pittsburgh must join them.