Welcome back to the search for the Pittsburgh Steelers next franchise QB. Last time we discussed the inconsistent but talented dual-threat QB Desmond Ridder. This time we dive in to a player who burst on to the scene in 2020 and has a chance to play his way into 1st round consideration: Nevada QB Carson Strong. He is the first prospect I have discussed that is more of a traditional pocket passer, so let’s see how he stacks up to the competition.
Carson Strong, QB Nevada: 2,858 passing yards, 27 touchdowns
Strong has a (pun very intended) strong arm capable of making every throw you need to make in the NFL. His velocity on short to intermediate throws is excellent, and his deep ball has great touch. Sometimes his deep passes do have a little too much air under them, but it seems to be more of an inconsistency issue than an arm talent issue. When his deep ball is working it is by far his most dangerous weapon. He completed several 40+ yard passes for touchdowns in the games I watched, and he was never afraid to attack downfield even coming off an interception.
His ball placement was also the best I have seen on tape for the 3 players I have evaluated so far, and his general accuracy was impressive as well. He played pretty much exclusively from the pistol and shotgun due to offensive coordinator Matt Mumme running the air-raid system. He also was working with mostly 4-5 wide receiver sets, so he rarely had traditional dropbacks since he was usually working with 5-man protections. This could lead to him having a bit of a learning curve once he enters the league, which may impact his value slightly. His biggest issue on tape for me was that he occasionally is late with his decision making, which caused some turnovers and missed big play opportunities. Overall, his arm talent and already solid accuracy give him a really good base to build upon.
Strong is not nearly the athlete that the previous prospects I have written about are. However, he is a better athlete than most pocket passers are expected to be, showing the ability to extend plays enough that he can survive when playing out of structure. He has the ability to navigate the pocket and avoid pressure while keeping his eyes down field. He showed great toughness as well, often taking two or more defenders to bring him down when he was sacked. Although it wasn’t very common, he also showed the ability to escape the pocket and get a few yards if given enough space. Watching him does give me young Big Ben vibes, although not quite as talented at escaping pressure and making plays. Overall, his mobility is more than adequate for any offense that doesn’t require the QB be part of the run game.
Strong has done a great job of elevating himself since he first arrived at Nevada, and he had plenty of hurdles along the way. He missed his senior season of high school due to injury, which meant by the time he started his first game for Nevada in 2019 it had been 3 years since he threw a pass in a game setting. Not only that, he was the first Freshman to start a season opener in program history, defeating Purdue 34-31 in that game. He also put his work ethic on display with a massive leap between his first year starting (11-7 TD-INT ratio) and this past season (27-4 TD-INT ratio). The air-raid system may have a simple goal in mind, but it isn’t as simple as throwing the ball all over the yard. Strong showed command of the offense by making adjustments and setting protections, not something college QB’s are often allowed or expected to do. This should serve him well at the next level and should help foster confidence from his coaches and fellow players. Overall, there is nothing I can find about Strong that would make me hesitate to pick him to be my QB, at least from a personal perspective.
Strong is definitely the most consistent thrower I have evaluated thus far. Although I would prefer the Steelers move away from a traditional pocket passer, I can’t deny that he reminds me a lot of Ben in certain aspects. It’s really easy to imagine him throwing bombs to Chase Claypool and hitting Juju and others in stride in the short game, and I think the offensive staff would welcome somebody who can be more of a facilitator than a true playmaker. Normally I would disagree, but as I have mentioned before Matt Canada puts a premium on accuracy and allowing your skill players to make the plays. Of the QB’s I have studied so far, Strong is the best fit for that based on his film from last year. If he can clean up some of his decision making and speed up his processor just a bit, I think he can work his way into 1st round consideration. If that happens, look for the Steelers to strongly consider him as their next franchise QB.
Verdict: Very Possible