Over Easter weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers were open for business. They hosted University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. The Steelers leadership was well-represented on March 29th at the University of Miami’s pro day. General Manager Kevin Colbert and Quarterbacks Coach Randy Fichtner were among the attendees to watch Kaaya throw 62 passes. The night prior to Miami’s pro day Colbert, Fichnter, Kaaya, highly touted Miami tight end David Njoku, and Steelers cornerback Artie Burns had dinner together. Burns, Kaaya and Njoku, were teammates at the University of Miami. The Steelers drafted Burns in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft.
Brad Kaaya: Pittsburgh Steelers Next Franchise Quarterback?
Kaaya grew up in Southern California as a highly-regarded recruit. The University of Miami began recruiting him at the end of his junior year of high school and “by the time the Pac-12 teams like USC got around to offering me a scholarship, my mind was already made up; I wanted to attend Miami,” Kaaya revealed recently.
During his freshman year at the University of Miami he beat out transfer Jake Heaps for the starting job. Kaaya reminisced, “as a 19-year-old kid I was leading grown men with families and NFL aspirations on the football field, it was a shock, I had to grow as a leader very quickly.”
In three seasons as the starting quarterback at the University of Miami, Kaaya was tasked with learning, installing and executing three different offenses. He recalled “I think looking back on it, that really shows my diversity as a player. Three offenses in three seasons, and in each season my production improved.”
When I touched on how the situation would likely be different if he were drafted by the Steelers given the franchise’s reputation for stability. Kaaya acknowledged “Yeah, absolutely, it would be great to come in at the start of a new season and be able to watch the previous year’s game tape to learn from mistakes and grow the offense.”
He also had high praise for the Steelers, “at the combine, some teams were so busy, so preoccupied, that I wasn’t even given the opportunity to meet with their GM. When I met with the Steelers, I shook Kevin Colbert’s hand and right behind him was Mr. Rooney. Some owners were off, pre-occupied, doing different things, and here Mr. Rooney took the time to come to the NFL combine and meet with players, it really left an impression. Artie and (Anthony Chickillo) both seem really happy in Pittsburgh. It seems like the Steelers have a good, close knit, group of guys in that locker room, they care, and want to win.”
Kaaya finished his senior season as one of the lightest quarterback prospects entering the draft. He has since bulked up to 218 pounds and looks every bit the part of an NFL quarterback. Kaaya has big hands; measuring 9 ¾” at the combine. He also has elite footwork, allowing him to keep his balance and his eyes down field with defenders in his face. The former Miami quarterback also throws a very soft, catchable ball with a lot of touch on it and has a quick release. He’s been groomed to be a quarterback from a young age and his mechanics and football IQ reflect just that.
Detractors wonder if he has elite arm strength to fit passes into tight windows down field. Last season he completed only 38% of his passes that traveled between 11 and 20 yards. “Right now, I’m concentrating on driving the ball when throwing down field with velocity,” he commented.
Others question whether he has the arm strength and skill set to escape the pocket and make plays on the move. While Kaaya has put a lot of great plays on film it seems like the biggest question is whether he can make big plays on a consistent basis at the NFL level. A franchise will give him the opportunity to do just that. Hopefully it’s the Steelers.
When asked which current NFL quarterback he likens himself to Kaaya replied, “I really look at Matt Ryan, we are similar physically, we have similar builds and similar styles of play. I watch him on film and look for things that I can incorporate into my game. I also like his pre-snap reads and the decisions he makes when under pressure.”
It’s obvious Kaaya holds himself to high expectations as Matt Ryan won the NFC Championship last season, and was an epic New England Patriots comeback short of his first Super Bowl ring.
There’s no doubt that Brad Kaaya has the tools and intangibles to be a productive quarterback in the NFL. There’s also no doubt the Steelers have some level of interest in drafting Kaaya in the 2017 NFL draft. It’s easy to see a scenario where Kaaya is drafted as the heir-apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, develops behind Roethlisberger as his career winds down, benefits from being in the same offensive system for multiple seasons, and leans on the plethora of offensive weapons the Steelers possess to help ease the transition as Kaaya takes the takes the reigns of the offense. Ideally Kaaya becomes the next franchise quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. When the NFL draft rolls around on April 27th, 2017 the Steelers will have the chance to draft Kaaya. Hopefully he gets the opportunity to play for Pittsburgh, something he called “a dream come true.”
Main Photo Courtesy of Brad Kaaya