Patrick Mahomes / JOHNSON / USA TODAY Sports Images

Steelers Draft '17: Quarterbacks

Similarities between the 2005 Green Bay Packers and these Pittsburgh Steelers exist at the QB position as the 2017 NFL draft approaches.

The concern of the Pittsburgh Steelers is that the retirement of 35-year-old Ben Roethlisberger would leave the team in the lurch.

It's understandable. That's why the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick of the 2005 draft, even though Brett Favre was still playing at the age of 35.

Rodgers sat the bench through three seasons before Favre retired -- for the first time -- at the age of 38.

Roethlisberger has begun to contemplate retirement, and Steelers GM Kevin Colbert cited the Rodgers-Favre example as a reason why the Steelers would spend time looking at QB prospects this draft season.

They've done exactly that. On Monday, they hosted Patrick Mahomes and Josh Dobbs, and are also scheduled to host Davis Webb and Nate Peterman. Others, no doubt, will follow.

Colbert attended the Pitt, North Carolina, Clemson and Miami pro days to watch Peterman, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley attended Notre Dame's pro day to watch DeShone Kizer

It's provided a steady drumbeat of QB news for Steelers fans this spring, and those fans understand that their six Lombardi Trophies have been won by first-round picks Terry Bradshaw and Roethlisberger.

But those two aren't the only great QBs in the franchise's history. In fact, except for brief interludes in the 1930s, 1950s and at the turn of the century, the Steelers could've been led by Hall of Fame QBs throughout, had they only played the hands they've been dealt.

* Sid Luckman, 1939-1950 -- The second pick of the draft was sent to the Chicago Bears for Eggs Manske, who then re-signed with the Bears.

* John Unitas, 1955-1973 -- The ninth-round draft pick was cut in favor of Jim Finks, Ted Marchibroda and Vic Eaton, and later signed with the Baltimore Colts.

* Len Dawson, 1957-1975 -- The Steelers won a coin flip with the Cleveland Browns for the fifth pick of the draft and snatched the QB Paul Brown had wanted to replace Otto Graham. The Browns settled for RB Jim Brown in the draft and traded for Dawson three years later. 

* Bradshaw, 1970-1983 -- In another winning coin flip, this time with the Bears, the Steelers drafted a Hall of Famer with the first pick and kept him.

* Dan Marino, 1983-1999 -- This is one Hall of Famer the Steelers didn't have, but could've. They let the local boy slip past them at pick 21 in favor of a defensive tackle, explaining years later that the dynasty of the 1970s was started with a defensive tackle.

* Drew Brees, 2001-present -- After struggling through three non-playoff seasons with Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak and Kent Graham as starting QBs, the Steelers passed on the hugely prolific Brees at pick 19, where they drafted, after having traded down three spots, nose tackle Casey Hampton. Steelers fans lamented the fact that Bill Cowher always had strong, physical teams and could've won a Super Bowl if he only had a QB. This was one of the reasons why both halves of that lament were true.

* Roethlisberger, 2004-present -- Cowher once again wanted to draft a powerful lineman, but on draft day Dan Rooney reminded him that passing on a franchise QB (Marino) was Rooney's greatest regret. The Steelers reviewed the Roethlisberger scouting report and picked him 11th.

All are either Hall of Famers or soon will be. All were either with the team or within their grasp. 

Are any of these QBs future Hall of Famers?

Well, it's not a good year, and it's a bit of stretch to say any are even close to a Brees-type talent. But Trubisky (6-2, 222) is probably the best pocket passer of the group. He completed 67.5 percent of his passes at North Carolina but only started one season while biding time behind the forgettable Marquise Williams.

Watson (6-2 1/2, 221) led Clemson to a national championship and is probably the best natural leader of the bunch.

Mahomes (6-2, 225) tore up the pass-happy Big 12 Conference with Texas Tech, and has a Major League arm and good mobility, but comes across as physically immature, and with his poor mechanics is at least three years away from starting duty.

Peterman (6-2 1/2, 222) impressed as a field general at Pitt but a lack of top-end arm strength makes him a third-round prospect and probably a better fit for a West Coast offense.

Kizer (6-4, 233) looks like the next Cam Newton, physically, but in failing in six opportunities to either tie or win games in the fourth quarter last season Kizer has yet to prove he has the winning touch of a QB worth wedging between veteran backups Landry Jones and Zach Mettenberger.

Webb (6-4 1/2, 229), like Rodgers, played at Cal and showed a strong arm, so the analogy of the Rodgers-Favre process continues here. But while Rodgers at most points throughout his final season was considered a high to mid first-round pick, Webb wouldn't come close to being considered a falling star at pick 30.

Kaaya (6-4, 214) was a big-time recruit who started three seasons at Miami but he failed repeatedly when pressured. 


My understanding is the Steelers aren't going to draft a quarterback this year. Of course, they're obligated to doing their homework in case Roethlisberger does shock the world with an abrupt retirement. This strategy is fine, but I might take a big, developmental, strong-armed, mobile project such as Jerod Evans in the fifth round. 

Unless Trubisky surprisingly falls to pick 30, the Steelers should remain focused on the defensive side of the ball. That Hall of Famer will have to wait another year before once again falling into their lap.


Second Round -- Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech.

Fifth Round -- Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech.

Sixth Round --- Josh Dobbs, Tennessee.

Jim Wexell's sleeper pick at QB.

(For a more detailed report on Mahomes, Dobbs and the rest of Monday's visiting prospects, click here, and for a breakdown of Tuesday's visitors click here.)

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