*Walt taking 2014 and 2018
Charlie Campbell, Senior Draft Analyst
Steelers Gauging Interest in DeShone KizerUpdated April 25, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
For weeks now, Walter and I have had the Steelers taking Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the first round of our 2017 NFL Mock Drafts. Weeks ago, sources told us that the Steelers were high on Kizer.
In the final days before the draft, WalterFootball.com has learned from team sources that Steelers have been asking around to other teams, trying to gauge where Kizer could be drafted and who could be interested in taking him. Pittsburgh has to start planning for the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger and it sounds as though Kizer is viewed as their developmental starter in waiting while Roethlisberger finishes out his career.
There are scouts around the league who feel that Kizer has the best skill set and most athletic upside of any quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. He had an inconsistent junior season, as he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,925 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for seven touchdowns. His completion percentage was thrown off by playing a game in the midst of Hurricane Matthew and his receivers consistently dropping well-thrown passes. Kizer played better as a sophomore when he had more talent around him like a top-25 wide receiver in Will Fuller), a top-10 pick at left tackle in Ronnie Stanley, a second-round center in Nick Martin, and a third-round running back in C.J. Prosise. In 2015, Kizer completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He picked up 520 yards with 10 scores on the ground.
The Steelers have tried to be discrete with their vetting of Kizer with offensive coordinator Todd Haley at the Notre Dame pro day rather than a big contingent of general manager, head coach, and other top executives. However, teams have told WalterFootball.com that Pittsburgh has revealed some nerves about Kizer not getting to their pick as they’ve asked around the league where he might go and what teams are interested in taking him.
Kizer (6-4, 233) is almost identical in size to Roethlisberger (6-4, 240) with both possessing a strong arm to go with mobility and athleticism in a big body. The Steelers could develop Kizer behind Roethlisberger for a year or two before turning the reigns over. Roethlisberger started talking about retirement at the end of the 2016 season, so Pittsburgh wants to be proactive about securing the future of the most important position on the team. They want to hit the ground running with their new quarterback and not miss out on prime years of great offensive weapons like Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, who could lead Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl. After falling short in the AFC Championship Game last year, the Steelers have a talented roster without a lot of starting positions open for competition. Thus, they can afford to use a first-round pick on a quarterback of the future similar to how Green Bay selected Aaron Rodgers during the final years of Brett Favre’s Packer career. In speaking to league sources, it sounds like Kizer is the player that Steelers are targeting in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.