Mike Tomlin may have spilled the beans on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 NFL Draft plans to a noteworthy college head coach.
On the most recent episode of ESPN’s First Draft podcast, NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay shared a story relayed to him by Willis’ college head coach Hugh Freeze. The Liberty Flames head coach told McShay that Tomlin had a ton of interest in his star quarterback.
“One takeaway I got was. And he said, ‘listen, I don’t know where he’s going. Detroit has shown interest, Carolina is here, they’ve shown interest. But Mike Tomlin loves this guy,'” said McShay about his conversation with Freeze. “Even Mike said when we talked, ‘we’d love to have him, we just don’t know if we can get him at 20.'”
With quarterback-needy teams prevalent picking inside of the top 10, there is no way Willis falls any further than the Seattle Seahawks picking at No. 9. Willis could go as high as No. 2 to the Detroit Lions. Other teams who could be in the mix to draft him inside of the top 10 include the Carolina Panthers picking at No. 6 and Willis’ hometown Atlanta Falcons with the No. 8. selection.
Tomlin may love Willis, but is he the quarterback prospect worthy of trading into the top five for?
Mike Tomlin has let it be known how highly he thinks of Liberty QB Malik Willis
Overall, expect for three quarterbacks to be coming off the board inside of the top 12. There could be upwards of five going in the first round, but without much of a debate, two will be going inside of the top 10: Willis out of Liberty and Heisman Trophy finalist and ACC Player of the Year Kenny Pickett out of Pitt. Could Tomlin’s interest in Willis be a smokescreen to help get Pickett instead?
With the way the draft order is set, the Steelers would need to move up at least 15 spots in a deal with the New York Giants to get to No. 5 to have a realistic shot at landing Willis. They cannot bank on the Panthers passing on him at No. 6 and the Falcons passing on him at No. 8. The Washington Commanders could go quarterback at No. 12, as could the New Orleans Saints picking at No. 18.
Simply put, if the Steelers stand pat at No. 20, they could be in a position to draft a quarterback like Sam Howell out of UNC, reach on Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati or be lucky enough to have Matt Corral out of Ole Miss fall to them. If the Steelers want Willis, they need to get into the top five. If Pickett is their guy, top 10 would do. Should it be Corral, they must get into the top 12.
It may be a weak quarterback draft class, but look for three signal-callers to go inside the top 12.