The only quarterback chosen in the first round came at No. 20. It was long discussed what the Steelers would do, looking for their next long-term signal caller. Passing on Mailk Willis, Pittsburgh found its next quarterback from Pittsburgh. Kenny Pickett just has to walk down the Heinz Field halls to a different locker room. Pickett’s selection was the latest the first quarterback was chosen in an NFL Draft in 25 years, when Jim Druckenmiller went No. 26 overall to the 49ers. As valued as finding an elite quarterback is in the NFL, it was only the second time in the last 20 years only one quarterback was chosen in the first round. Pickett’s hands are smaller than any current NFL quarterback, but who cares about that? The Steelers went with maturity over possible upside here. Pickett is 24, a year younger than Joe Burrow.
Choosing Pickett over Willis feels like more than just picking the kid familiar with his new city. In replacing Ben Roethlisberger, the franchise clearly prioritized what he’s already shown, finishing third in this season’s Heisman voting, as opposed to what could be. Willis has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson. But I don’t see that. He could be great, but Pickett is the safer pick. Going with a sure thing for a franchise quarterback isn’t confusing. He’s more ready to start in the NFL right now.