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It's Time to Veer Away From Kenny Pickett to Steelers Talk

The Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn't keep the college star in the Steel City.

The entire season has been seen as Ben Roethlisberger's farewell tour. The reports came out a few weeks ago that Roethlisberger did indeed tell people inside the Pittsburgh Steelers organization that this is his last season. He later deflected those questions, but all signs indicate he'll be retiring following this season.

The talk has been the same for years: how do the Steelers replace Roethlisberger?

It seemed like the Steelers found a guy they really liked to replace him in Mason Rudolph in the 2017 NFL Draft. Rudolph has shown signs of being a capable NFL quarterback but doesn't seem to have the skillset to make it as a decade-long franchise leader at the position.

Dwayne Haskins was brought in off the free agent wire as a way to maybe bring back some of the magic he had at Ohio State after being cut by the Football Team. His relationship with Tomlin suggests the Steelers wouldn't be opposed to giving Haskins a chance to at least show whether he can be anything resembling an NFL quarterback.

At the end of the day, neither to figure to be the long term answer at the position. So what should the Steelers do if, in fact, Big Ben does hang up the cleats following the Steelers' last push towards the playoffs?

Many of the Pittsburgh Faithful have clamored for Pittsburgh to draft University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round this offseason. I'm here to play bad cop and tell you that it is probably wise to give up on the pipe dream as we inch closer to the 2022 NFL Draft.

Admittedly, it would be kind of cool to see Pickett start his NFL career at the same field that he brought the Pitt Panthers back to relevancy. He'd have no trouble fitting in with the surroundings. Yinzers would probably make his jersey the highest selling of any rookie to come out of school and enter the league next season. It would be a good story.

What it wouldn't be is a wise move on the Steelers' end and I'll tell you why.

Pickett was a heck of a lot of fun to watch at Pitt. It's hard to stay in tune with Pitt Football, considering their yearly disappointments. The constant starting out 6-2 only to finish with eight wins got old. This year Pickett took the Panthers to heights they haven't been to in decades. However, there are some downsides to taking him so high.

Pickett will already be 24 years old upon making his first NFL appearance. While 24 is hardly old, most quarterbacks come into the league as fresh-faced 21 or 22-year-olds. Pickett played a fifth season at Pitt, which is also more wear and tear on his body at the collegiate level. Any drafting team is missing out on a few extra prime years of Pickett.

The upside to him being an older draftee is that he appears more polished than any other quarterback in this class coming out. He draws some comparisons to Mac Jones in that he looks to be the most NFL-ready now but doesn't have the highest ceiling. Jones is leading the New England Patriots to a likely playoff berth in his rookie season, so there is that.

I don't claim to be an NFL Draft expert. I let the analysts do that. Most analysts aren't very bullish on this draft class and expect it to be one of the least fruitful drafts of the past ten years or so. Most publications have Pickett being one of the first handful of quarterbacks off the board. The league has proven time and time again that teams will overdraft a quarterback high in the draft because they need one bad enough. The NFL's premier position has made players like Mitch Trubisky and Jared Goff top five picks.

I'm not suggesting that Pickett or Matt Corral or Sam Howell or any of the quarterbacks are destined to fail in the NFL. But with the Steelers making a push towards the playoffs, it doesn't seem likely that Pickett would even be available to the Steelers in the position that they could pick in.

I'm not anti-Pickett by any means, and seeing him don a number eight black, and gold jersey is enough to give any real Pittsburgh fan chills. But any pick made in the first round that isn't an offensive linemen feels like a massive fail on the part of the Steelers.

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Kevin Colbert is on a year-to-year basis as the organization's general manager. I would not be surprised if he hangs it up simultaneously with Roethlisberger. Regardless of who makes the selection next season, finding a stud offensive lineman that can give you the production and longevity of a Maurkice Pouncey or David Decastro feels like the only right move.

As much as I am on record supporting the Najee Harris selection this season, the lack of talent and continuity on the offensive line proved more valuable than the loads of talent Harris possesses. I long to think how good the run game could be behind five talented linemen like the one Le'Veon Bell had the opportunity to run behind.

Heck, why not take another one in round two? If the quarterback class is as average as the experts are saying it is, why not take a flier on a mid-round quarterback? Tom Brady saw 198 other players taken before him. Obviously, he is an outlier. The moral of the story is that it is possible to find diamonds in the rough. You may not find the next Brady but finding a Matt Ryan or a Kirk Cousins with a mid-round pick isn't the worst thing either.

Maybe Rudolph or Haskins start and end up playing well enough behind a revamped offensive line that the Steelers make a surprise push into the playoffs. And if Rudolph or Haskins or the potential mid-round quarterback flounder, that is all the higher the Steelers would pick in 2023 where they could find a true heir apparent with a top-10 pick.

Jay Glazer has also said that Mike Tomlin has no desire to start over with a rookie quarterback, which would suggest that the Steelers would be active in trade discussions and free agency. This furthers the notion that Pickett likely won't end up in Pittsburgh anytime soon.

With Roethlisberger's career soon to end, wouldn't we rather see him beat Cleveland and Baltimore one last time on the way to a potential AFC North crown than limp to the finish line and get a top-15 pick because of it? Pittsburgh may see enough losing after Roethlisberger's departure. Steelers fans have been spoiled for way too long, so I'd prefer one last run before hard times fall upon Pittsburgh.

Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers has a nice ring to it. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest the Steelers will be looking in a few other directions than keeping the Pitt Panther legend at Heinz Field on Sundays.

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