Barring injury, the Eagles and Steelers are almost certainly locked into their current quarterback situations through the rest of 2021. Jalen Hurts has been passable in his first full audition for long-term QB1 duties in Philadelphia, and Ben Roethlisberger has similarly been serviceable in what could be his final NFL season in Pittsburgh. But what if these two Pennsylvania teams and QB situations are destined to intertwine in 2022? A lot can change between now and the offseason, but it's not hard to envision a scenario in which Hurts could make sense as the Steelers' next signal-caller.
Is this random and oddly specific? Perhaps. But that doesn't mean the possibility doesn't hold merit. The last few offseasons have taught us that big-name QB movement is increasingly plausible. And the Eagles and Steelers just happen to be approaching a crossroads at the position.
Let's start with Philly. The Eagles signaled a willingness to build around Hurts, their 2020 second-round pick, by skipping over top 2021 QB prospects after dealing Carson Wentz. But "their commitment to him beyond this season is not steadfast," as The Athletic's Zach Berman notes. For one, Hurts has yet to prove he's actually improving as a consistent passer, even as his legs and leadership have sold select coaches and fans. And the Eagles, perhaps more than any team, value a progressive, pass-first offense. They have a history of making luxury moves at QB as a result, and with tons of 2022 ammo (including potentially three first-round picks), they probably need Hurts to explode down the stretch to stop them from looking elsewhere. That might not be fair to Hurts, but it's reality.
As for the Steelers? It's darn near a foregone conclusion that 2021 will be Roethlisberger's last season in Pittsburgh. While he's been a decent-enough shepherd of a scrappy contender thus far, he'll be a 40-year-old free agent in 2022, and injuries have nagged him regularly for years now. Former third-rounder Mason Rudolph is under contract through 2022 but is hardly guaranteed QB1 duties. The Steelers, meanwhile, may not have the ammo to draft a top 2022 prospect or the gusto to mortgage the future for someone like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. Best of all, Hurts is exactly the kind of QB they could use: young, mobile and tough -- basically as accurate as present-day Roethlisberger, but with the athleticism to accentuate their control-the-clock, defensively led strategy.
With The First Pick Newsletter
With The First Pick Newsletter
Prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft with the day’s big stories + mock drafts, big board updates and more.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Pittsburgh's defense is built to win now, and with Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth emerging as young building blocks on offense, it's clear the Steelers still want to play old-school football, not so unlike the AFC-leading Titans. Imagine Hurts captaining them instead of Roethlisberger this year (and especially beyond this year), and while the passing ceiling isn't necessarily much higher, the fit makes sense.
So call it a win-win. The Eagles take a big swing on Russ, a rookie or another better-armed passer, allowing Nick Sirianni his handpicked "guy," while recouping a pick -- maybe a conditional Day 2 selection -- for Hurts, as Roseman unofficially predicted back when he drafted the Oklahoma product. Hurts gets to move to the AFC for a better setup and potential starting gig, while Gardner Minshew sticks around as a capable No. 2. The Steelers, meanwhile, give Ben a nice sendoff, then add Hurts for a summer competition with Rudolph, giving coordinator Matt Canada more flexibility before a QB reassessment in 2023.
Again, plenty can change from now until then. But don't be surprised, in the event each team's QB trajectories continue, if the Eagles and Steelers think about it.