The Steelers are sending QB J.J. McCarthy in a blockbuster trade proposal

February 25, 2024

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was projected by CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli to be traded up for by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Although the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to remain hopeful that Kenny Pickett will develop into a franchise quarterback, Tom Fornelli from CBS Sports appears skeptical of this notion.

On February 23, Fornelli made a prediction in an NFL mock draft that J.J. McCarthy, the quarterback from Michigan would be selected by the Steelers.

Fornelli suggested that the Steelers should trade up to the ninth spot in the 2024 NFL draft to acquire McCarthy.

Fornelli noted that the Steelers are aware of Kenny Pickett’s incapability as a solution and won’t spend time fixing it. He also mentioned Arthur Smith is expected to introduce a run-focused gameplay based on play action and tight ends, reminiscent of McCarthy’s offense at Michigan!

Here would be a good fit for McCarthy, as he possesses a strong arm along with the ability to quickly diagnose defenses and extend drives using his athleticism.

During his time at Michigan spanning across three seasons, McCarthy recorded a completion percentage of 67.6% and an average pass attempt distance of 8.7 yards per play. Furthermore, he successfully threw for a massive total of forty-nine touchdowns while only being intercepted on eleven occasions in the entirety of said period.l

Beginning his college career, he amassed a record of 28 wins and only one loss. Recently, McCarthy guided the Wolverines to their inaugural national championship since 1997.

McCarthy’s performance in the 2023-24 college football playoffs was impressive, as he completed 60% of his passes by connecting on 27 out of a total of 45 attempts. He amassed an astounding figure of 361 yards and scored three touchdowns without throwing any interceptions.

Possible rewrite: The Steelers might find a good fit for J.J. McCarthy on their team.

There are a few reasons that make McCarthy an intriguing quarterback prospect.

Undoubtedly, his college win-loss record was impressive. Nonetheless, the credit for it should mainly be given to McCarthy’s adherence to a scheme that boasted an exceptional running game and defense.

According to Ted Nguyen of The Athletic, McCarthy was not the primary force behind the Wolverines’ national championship victory. However, it remains unclear whether their choice to consistently run the ball hindered their ability to make big plays because they lacked trust in McCarthy or doubted their offensive line’s aptitude for protecting during passing attempts.

At times, particularly against elite opponents, the Wolverines faced difficulty in pass protection despite possessing a sturdy offensive line that excelled at run-blocking.

For the last couple of weeks, McCarthy’s personal talents seem to be garnering more attention.

In his second mock draft unveiled on February 20, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network predicted that McCarthy would be selected at No.8. However, three days later on February 23rd, Brad Biggs from The Chicago Tribune projected McCarthy to go at No.6 instead.

In a mock draft by Phil Perry from NBC Sports Boston, McCarthy was linked to the Steelers towards the end of January at pick No. 20 overall.

It seems that McCarthy’s value is increasing as time passes. Despite the draft being a couple of months away, if the Steelers have their eyes on him, it appears improbable that he will be attainable for them with pick No. 20.

Is Steelers’ Confidence in QB Kenny Pickett Waning?

The Steelers’ consideration of McCarthy is not the issue, but their readiness to part ways with Pickett.

Throughout the offseason, a plethora of quarterbacks have been linked to the Steelers by NFL analysts. Additionally, it has become increasingly common for rumors surrounding Pittsburgh’s potential acquisition of Justin Fields via trade to circulate.

Publicly, the Steelers have backed Pickett as their possible starter for 2024.

Tomlin announced during his press conference on January 18 that the starting quarterback for Pittsburgh in 2024 was already present in the team’s current roster.

Following the dismissal of Mitch Trubisky on February 12, Pickett remains as the only quarterback present in Steelers’ roster.

According to Gerry Dulac’s report in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 17, the Steelers have no intention of acquiring a new starting quarterback.

Although the Steelers may draft a quarterback, it is not set in stone. During his post-season press conference, Tomlin emphasized that the team is seeking to bring forth challengers for Pickett.

Additionally, compelling options for quarterbacks in the later rounds include Spencer Rattler, Sam Hartman and several others.

Unless the Steelers change their stance on Pickett, it’s unlikely that they would consider targeting a quarterback in the first round or trade up for one.

The Steelers will most likely seek out competition for Pickett by either re-signing Mason Rudolph or acquiring a veteran through free agency.