Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

The NFL quarterback carousel has been spinning like the tires on a pickup stuck in the mud the last two years with big names changing teams on a regular basis.

And that carousel could get an early start this year with the potential trade of Deshawn Watson to Miami now back on according to Houston Texans reporter John McClain.

If that deal were to happen before the Nov. 2 trade deadline, it would start the offseason quarterback market moving early. Miami obviously would send Tua Tagovailoa – a first-round pick just last year – somewhere else (Washington is rumored to be involved), taking two teams out of the quarterback market.

It also might show exactly how weak the quarterback class is in the upcoming draft.

Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, presumed by some to be the potential top quarterback in this draft, just got benched. North Carolina’s Sam Howell, another player talked about as the possible top quarterback, hasn’t had a good season.

That’s why his game Saturday against Clemson is such a big one for Pitt’s Kenny Pickett.

Clemson isn’t what it has been in recent years, at least not offensively. But the defense is still loaded with NFL talent and 5-star recruits across the board.

The bottom line is, this year’s quarterback class doesn’t look like anything special, which is why it was no surprise Mike Tomlin told FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer recently that he would prefer to go with a veteran quarterback for the Steelers should Ben Roethlisberger retire after this season.

That’s not shocking news. Give truth serum to any NFL head coach and they will tell you they prefer a veteran to a rookie and the mistakes that come with breaking in a new starter.

But this year’s draft class also doesn’t have a slam dunk star.

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick has gone 12 games without an interception. That’s the longest streak of his career.

That’s the bad news. The good is that his previous streak of 11 games came at the end of 2019 and extended into the first four games of the 2020 season. He finished last season with four interceptions.

There are better days ahead.

  • If the playoffs started after Week 6, the Steelers would have been the seventh seed in the AFC field.

And they have T.J. Watt to thank for it. Watt took over the game in overtime against the Seahawks last week and won that game.

That’s why he was worth the 4-year, $112-million contract extension the Steelers gave him. There aren’t many defensive players capable of taking over a game. He’s one of the few.

This week’s games

Bengals (plus 6½) at Ravens: The Ravens had been just getting by in close games until blowing out the Chargers last week. But the Chargers did some questionable things in that game to make that score worse than it was. How many fourth-down failures are too many? The Bengals are better, but I don’t think they’re ready to win in Baltimore. Take the Bengals to cover in a 27-24 loss

Jets (plus 6½) at Patriots: At 2-4, a win this week would have some talking about how the Patriots are back in the AFC playoff race. Don’t believe it. Their three wins would have come against the Texans and Jets (twice). They’re not good. But the Jets are worse, as evidenced by their 25-6 loss to New England at home in Week 2. Take the Patriots, 24-13

Panthers (minus 2½) at Giants: The Panthers’ defense should get back to its shutdown ways in this one. The Giants are missing a lot of key players and shouldn’t put up a lot of resistance. But both teams are missing their best offensive stars – Saquon Barkley for the Giants, Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers. The Panthers have a better supporting cast. Take the Panthers, 26-20

Falcons (minus 2 ½) at Dolphins: Will the Dolphins play Tagovailoa in this game with the Watson trade reportedly imminent? If not, Jacoby Brissett goes back in behind perhaps the worst offensive line in the league. There’s really not a lot for the Dolphins to hang their hats on. And the Falcons have beaten up on the really bad teams. They’re just kind of bad. Take the Falcons, 31-24

Lions (plus 15 ½) at Rams: These two teams swapped quarterbacks in the offseason, but Matthew Stafford has a far better supporting cast than Jared Goff does with Detroit. This could get really ugly. And Stafford gets to play it at home. Take the Rams, 38-10

Last Week: 2-3 ATS, 3-2 Straight up; Overall: 10-19-1 ATS, 19-12 Straight up.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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