The 2021 NFL Draft is just about two weeks away. After last year’s draft was conducted virtually due to the COVID pandemic, the NFL got partially back to the in-person circuit this season. While the Combine was cancelled, an increased importance was placed on Pro Day workouts. The Steelers brass was able to get out and hit the Pro Day circuit again this year, with scouts and coaches traversing the country. The Steelers will once again be picking in the mid-20s in the first round.
We start our positional NFL Draft previews today with a look at quarterbacks. The Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger back at the helm for what will likely be his last ride. Also, check out our Prospect Profiles on some specific prospects in the 2021 Draft class.
Returning Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
New Arrivals: Dwayne Haskins
The Departed: Josh Dobbs, Devlin Hodges
Draft Need: Medium (Future Starter)
The Steelers have four quarterbacks on the roster entering the 2021 NFL draft, so the immediate need may not seem significant. However, the future need is sky high. Ben Roethlisberger restructured his contract to essentially be a one-year deal and provide some salary cap relief. Mason Rudolph is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is no guarantee to be in Pittsburgh beyond 2021. Former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins was signed to a futures contract which is a one-year deal where the team can tender him next year. Given that there are no QBs currently signed for 2022, the draft need at quarterback is for a future starter. The Steelers also brought back Josh Dobbs on a one-year contract.
Likelihood of Drafting: Medium-Low
As Ben Roethlisberger approaches retirement, the Steelers will need to plan for the future of the quarterback position. Mason Rudolph certainly is not it. With the trades up at the top of the draft this year, it is almost a certainty that the first three picks will be quarterbacks. After that, the board is wide open and a lot of movement could occur. If one of the top four QBs slips past #8 could the Steelers make a move up the board? It is possible, though a move of that nature would likely require two first round picks (2021 and 2022). The Steelers may also look to restock the depth chart by snagging a QB with upside in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft, depending on who is available, but that seems unlikely after the signing of Dobbs.
With quarterbacks almost certainly going in the top three picks of the draft, the Steelers would likely need to trade up to grab one of the other “top four” (likely Justin Fields or Trey Lance). Mac Jones looks like a player who can be a capable quarterback with talent around him, but is not someone who is going to be a multiplier or maximize that talent. Florida’s Kyle Trask is Mason Rudolph 2.0 and not what this team needs. The Steelers did send offensive coordinator Matt Canada to Texas A&M’s Pro Day to scout Kellen Mond. In the later rounds, Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman and Appalachian State’s Zac Thomas have some athletic upside as developmental quarterbacks but won’t be immediate starters.