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Could Steelers 'pounce' on Baker Mayfield if he hits free agency? One reporter thinks so

ADAM BITTNER
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield watches warms-ups before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Nick Cammett)

The Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback room is already pretty crowded with veterans Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins in the fold.

They also, it would appear, remain rather interested in Liberty's Malik Willis, as coach Mike Tomlin appeared at the draft prospect's pro day for an up-close look Tuesday in Lynchburg, Va.

Nevertheless, one prominent Cleveland writer reported Tuesday that the team could be in the market for Baker Mayfield, too, should the division rival Browns let the brash signal caller go following their trade for ex-Houston star Deshaun Watson over the weekend.

"I had somebody tell me today that ... the Steelers will pounce on Baker Mayfield if he becomes available," said Mary Kay Cabot, a longtime reporter for Cleveland.com and the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "Like if they cut him and he's just out there as a street free agent, they would take him in a minute."

Of course, it's no sure thing that the former No. 1 overall pick would ever hit the open market. The Browns are currently in the process of trying to deal him for a return rather than release him and assume a sizable dead money salary cap hit for 2022.

Unfortunately for them, Cabot said that there hasn't been much movement on the trade front so far. And if no deal can be found, the team would probably be forced to consider letting him walk away for nothing or be forced to pay his large contract for him to sit behind Watson in 2022.

If that does, in fact, happen, the Steelers would face an interesting decision. Roll with their trio of unproven veterans and possibly a raw draft choice? Or tear up their plans to this point to add a guy with more proven bonafides?

Mayfield's numbers took a noticeable dip in 2021 amid the team's messy split with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who went on to become a key piece of the Los Angeles Rams' run to a Super Bowl title.

His passer rating dropped from 95.9 in 2020 to 83.1 this past year. And his Pro Football Focus grade of 63.6 represented a nearly 20-point drop and ranked 24th among quarterbacks with at least 300 drop-backs.

Before that, however, his numbers were pretty solid. His PFF grade was 13th-best in 2020 at 81.6 and he passed for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.

The Steelers would probably be thrilled to get that kind of production at QB. And Mayfield would check a lot of other boxes, too. He's reasonably mobile, a trait the team reportedly covets. He's 26, meaning he could be the QB here for a while if successful.

And because of the down year and ugly divorce in Cleveland, he could probably be had on a reasonable contract, allowing the team to continue to bolster its depth at other positions.

Again, there are still a lot of steps between now and that point. However, it's a situation worth monitoring when a reporter with Cabot's credibility is reporting such strong interest.