If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to reclaim their AFC North throne, then they will need to use their 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft wisely.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers might be able to snag one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft with the 20th overall selection, is it really worth it if they already signed Trubisky? Or if they could just wait until 2023 instead? Especially since next year’s class is set to include a three-headed monster of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Spencer Rattler.
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer have Ben Roethlisberger, and the thought of going into next season without a reliable solution feels daunting. But Steelers nation needs to be asking themselves; “is Big Ben’s replacement really in this year’s draft class?”
Drafting Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett might pan out in the long run, but it also might not. Since none of these quarterbacks appear to have that ‘wow factor’ that NFL GMs so often talk about.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also hold the 52nd overall pick in the second round of the draft, and could just opt to pick up a quarterback there instead. As there’s a very good chance that one of either Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, or Carson Strong will still be available at that point. All of whom are not that far off from Willis or Pickett in terms of raw talent.
So, taking into account that the Steelers don’t need to take a quarterback in the first round, there are a few other directions they should look to go with their 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
While their defense could still use some fine-tuning, specifically in the backfield, there’s a far more pressing issue on the other side of the ball; the offensive line.
At one point in time, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was one of the premier units in the NFL, but recently it’s become one of the bottom feeders in the league. This is in large part due to the fact that each of the team’s starting All-Pro linemen of the last decade either retired or departed within the last two years alone.
From Ramon Foster to Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro, the Steelers have declined mightily in the trenches over the last few NFL seasons. Making this their number one area of concern as we approach the 2022 NFL Draft.
While the Steelers do have solid depth along the interior, thanks to newcomers Mason Cole and James Daniels, as well as returning players Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green. They still have a glaring hole at offensive tackle, especially if they want to protect their quarterback of the future for years to come.
Enter Trevor Penning.
Why do the Pittsburgh Steelers need Trevor Penning?
Outside of projected lottery pick, Evan Neal, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning is probably the most physically imposing lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft. Even though he’s been described as a relatively ‘raw’ prospect, hence why he’s currently ranked as the fourth-best offensive tackle in the draft. Penning’s ruthless mauler mentality and incredible upside make him way too good to pass up on.
Between 2019 and 2020, Penning started in 19 games for the Panthers and was even rewarded with an All-MVFC honorable mention by the end of a COVID shortened 2020 season. That is until he truly broke out in 2021, earning Preseason All-American honors from STATS Perform heading into the season, and finishing the year giving up just a single sack on 654 plays over 13 games.
Which was good enough to make him an AP All-American and one of the finalists for the coveted Walter Payton Award as the best offensive player in college football. Which (had he won) would have made him the first offensive lineman in CFB history to win the award.
At 6’7″, 325-pounds, Trevor Penning is an absolute behemoth at offensive tackle and one that has improved in each of his three years at Northern Iowa. Don’t get it twisted though, he’s also a tremendous athlete for his size, consistently showcasing exceptional explosion and agility that would enable him to thrive as a starting left tackle in the NFL.
In fact, despite Penning being one of the bigger bodies at the NFL Combine, he still managed to run a 4.89 40-yard dash, which was the fourth-best time amongst all offensive linemen and had the quickest time on the three-cone drill at 7.25.
He’s also known for being one of the more competitive players in college football and is renowned for his ability (and willingness) to simply overpower his opponents at the line of scrimmage. Just check out what he did against some of the nation’s top pass rushers at the 2022 Senior Bowl.
One executive for an undisclosed NFC team put it like this;
"“Don’t overthink it when you write him up. He’s got size, length, toughness, he’s smart, he works his tail off, and loves to play football. That is what you look for in a starting tackle.”"
If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the Northern Iowa product, then I don’t know what will.
It also doesn’t hurt that Trevor Penning is absolutely dominant in the run game thanks to incredible his size and physicality. Which will obviously be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ point of emphasis now with Najee Harris carrying the bulk of the load on offense.
There are obviously a few different directions the Pittsburgh Steelers could go with their first-round selection this year. From taking a chance on a young high-profile quarterback to drafting a complementary wide receiver or a hard-hitting safety. Any of these are viable options at pick No. 20.
But regardless of who the Steelers have as their franchise quarterback going forward, they will need a legitimate blindside blocker to keep that player upright for the foreseeable future. So, if Trevor Penning is still available when it’s their turn to pick, he’s easily the best fit with the first pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers.