It is inevitable that there will be a change at the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback position within the next two years. Ben Roethlisberger’s contract is up at the end of 2021, and with that likely his career as well. The question is do the Steelers wait until next season, or make the change now?
In a normal year, the Steelers would load up for one last run with Ben Roehtlisberger. This is anything but a normal year however. For starters, the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to have a profound affect on the upcoming salary cap. The best case scenario is that this team is only five to ten million over the cap. And that’s without stars like Bud Dupree and Ju Ju Smith Schuster. We go into this in further detail here: Fixing the Steelers Step Two: Cuts, Keeps, and Extensions
An even more important factor is the amount of talented quarterbacks available this off-season. There has never before, and maybe never will be again, this many quarterbacks to choose from in one year. It is staggering how many teams will have new quarterbacks when the 2021 season begins. Let’s take a look at some of the options the Steelers would have and what it might cost to get them if they decided to make a change:
Deshaun Watson is clearly the best quarterback available right now. That also means he would cost the most to acquire. We go into greater detail into what it would take for the Steelers to trade for him here:Trade proposal: TJ Watt, Terrell Edmunds, 2 First Round picks for Deshaun Watson
This one is a long shot for sure, but with the recent rumors swirling about Russell Wilson we had to include him. https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2021/02/09/russell-wilson-on-whether-hes-available-in-trade-thats-a-seahawks-question/
Russell Wilson isn’t likely to be traded by the Seattle Seahawks. In fact we’d probably give it about a three percent chance of happening. But if this situation deteriorates even further, the Steelers would be foolish not to get in the mix for one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL.
We have now entered the more realistic world of possible Steelers targets. The Jets are an interesting situation because either they will make Sam Darnold available, or they would be willing to move their second overall pick. Either way it’s an opportunity for Pittsburgh to get a possible franchise quarterback here.
Sam Darnold would probably cost a second round pick at this point. The former third overall in the 2018 draft has had a rough go of it in his young career. He has struggled mightily the first three seasons, albeit with a very poor Jets franchise. Darnold could very well end up being a steal if the right team comes along and scoops him up. The Steelers are definitely one of those teams.
The other option is the second overall pick the Jets currently hold. This would cost significantly more to land unfortunately. New defensive minded coach Robert Salah would jump at the chance to trade that pick for someone like TJ Watt for instance. This is a deal the Jets make in a heartbeat if they believe in Darnold at all. The question is whether or not BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is worth such a steep price.
This one of course hinges on whether or not the Miami Dolphins become enamored with one of the quarterbacks in the upcoming draft. If say the aforementioned Zach Wilson were to fall to the Dolphins at number three, they certainly would be tempted. It is much more likely that Tua is involved in a package that lands Miami Deshaun Watson, but he is still worth mentioning. Trading for Tua Tagovailoa would cost the Steelers at least their first round pick in all likelihood.
Carson Wentz reminds us a lot of another Steelers quarterback. Does a tall, somewhat mobile quarterback from a small school remind you of anyone? The problem here is Wentz’s immense contract. He is owed close to $100 million over the next four years. That, his injuries, and his declining play make Wentz a risky option. All those things also drive down the asking price however. The Eagles seem to be hanging firm on a number one pick in exchange for Wentz. They will eventually have to settle for a second round pick at best. This is a very intriguing option for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mariota would be our preferred option to be the next Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. We go into it more in our post here: Steelers should trade for Marcus Mariota
Best of the Rest:
There are some free agent options a the quarterback position as well this off-season. Players like Cam Newton, Jamies Winston, and Mitchell Trubisky are all interesting, if not overly desirable possibilities. San Francisco has been long rumored to be in the market to upgrade their quarterback spot. That means Jimmy Garoppolo could hit the market at some point too.
One last player to keep a close eye on is Dak Prescott. He and the Cowboys have never been able to get a long term contract done. This is a situation that could spiral into a trade demand at any minute. Prescott is a free agent, but the Cowboys will absolutely use the franchise tag on him once again. That alone could send Prescott off the deep end and cause a split between the two parties.
As you can see, the quarterback market will be flooded this off-season. There has never been a better time to be a buyer at this position in the history of the league. The Pittsburgh Steelers can simply not afford to miss out on the 2021 quarterback carousel. Kevin Colbert has made some bold moves the last few years in trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, and moving up to get Devin Bush. He needs to be equally aggressive in getting the quarterback of the future, and he needs to do it now.