Roethlisberger has spent 18 seasons with the Steelers, and his resume will likely earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame. Whoever takes over at quarterback will undoubtedly have some big shoes to fill.
Big Ben’s backups are currently Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins Jr. Neither should earn any confidence from the coaching staff moving forward. With the answer nowhere to be found in the locker room, the front office must work some magic in the offseason. Pittsburgh should look to trade for a veteran or land one of the top 2022 college prospects in the draft.
Here are seven names who should be on the Steelers’ radar.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers looks like the best quarterback in football right now. Coming into 2021, it was unclear if he’d even suit up for the Green Bay Packers. With the team doing so well, perhaps the future Hall of Famer is having a change of heart.
Even if Rodgers is more receptive to staying in Green Bay, the Steelers would be remiss if they didn’t make the call. Pittsburgh has pieces in place to contend in the AFC but needs a quarterback to put the team over the top.
Not to mention, Rodgers previously said that he loves the city of Pittsburgh and has a great deal of respect for Mike Tomlin. This could be an ideal landing spot if things fall apart with the Packers’ top brass.
Kenny Pickett, University of Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett has absolutely skyrocketed to the top of NFL draft boards in 2021. He was unknown throughout his first three seasons at Pitt, but he’s put together a Heisman Trophy-worthy resume as a senior.
The Panthers standout has thrown for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions while completing 67.2% of his passes. Pickett oozes confidence and shows poise in the pocket. He possesses top-notch instincts, as evidenced by his recent fake slide.
If the Steelers opt to replace Ben Roethlisberger through the draft, there won’t be many better options than Pickett. He has the experience and would have an opportunity to stay in the same town where he played college ball.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Matt Corral is one of the better athletes among 2022’s crop of quarterbacks. The Ole Miss star has enjoyed a strong junior season. He has passed for 3,333 yards, 20 touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Not only is Corral gifted as a passer, but he can do damage with his legs as well. He’s carried the ball 145 times for 597 yards and 11 touchdowns. His dual-threat ability would be a change of pace from what Big Ben offers.
The 6-foot-2 Corral is not a tall quarterback, but he has all the tools to succeed at the next level. Pittsburgh would also appreciate his toughness, as he’s played through injuries throughout the 2021 season.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
The Steelers’ front office should definitely be putting feelers out to Russell Wilson’s camp. The Seattle Seahawks star hinted at wanting out after a 12-4 finish in 2020. What’s to say he wouldn’t want to leave town after a losing season?
In Wilson, the Steelers would be getting an immediate upgrade over Ben Roethlisberger. He’s six years younger and more mobile than Big Ben but still provides the veteran presence needed to win a Super Bowl. He’s done it before.
Like Rodgers, the Seahawks quarterback would step in and give Pittsburgh a chance to win right away.
Malik Willis, Liberty University
Malik Willis has a lot to prove. He plays at Liberty, which is obviously not known as a football powerhouse. However, he’s played a huge role in turning the program around, along with head coach Hugh Freeze.
Willis is a physically gifted athlete who can beat a defense in multiple ways. He’s thrown for 2,626 and 24 touchdowns. The Flames’ quarterback added 820 yards and 11 scores on the ground.
His decision-making has been questionable at times, though. He’s thrown 12 picks, but some were because he tried to play hero ball. He wouldn’t need to do that with the Steelers.
Sam Howell, University of North Carolina
Sam Howell’s 2021 season got off to a slow start, but his production did pick up as the year progressed. The junior has thrown for 2,851 yards, rushed for 825 yards, and scored 34 total touchdowns in 11 games.
Howell is another guy who can beat defenses with his arm and his legs. When running the ball, he’s tough and not afraid to take contact. However, he’ll need to learn to get down more and take fewer hits in the NFL.
The UNC signal-caller made the most of an offense with less-than-ideal talent. In the right situation, he could have a bright pro future.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Of all the options on this list, Deshaun Watson may be the least likely to end up in Pittsburgh. The Clemson product hasn’t played at all in 2021, and his legal situation still leaves questions unanswered.
From a football perspective, though, Watson going to Pittsburgh makes sense. Ben Roethlisberger can no longer take this offense to new heights. The Houston Texans quarterback could do just that. He’s used to carrying an offense. The Steelers would offer him the most talented unit of his career.
If the league clears Watson to play, Pittsburgh might take a chance on an immensely talented player.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference