First Call: Report says Steelers would ‘pounce’ on Baker Mayfield on open market; Mike Tomlin meets with Malik Willis

Wednesday’s “First Call” delves into a report that actually connects the Steelers to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The Steelers still seem interested in Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Even after the signing of Mitch Trubisky.

We get an update on Aaron Donald’s contract situation.

And the NHL’s Metropolitan Division had a busy night.


Steelers to ‘pounce’ on Baker Mayfield

With former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson heading to the Browns, everyone is wondering what is next for Cleveland’s incumbent starter, Baker Mayfield.

The former No.1 pick has already penned his goodbye letter to the city. Now it appears it’s just a matter of if the Browns will trade Mayfield or cut him. Should the latter occur, Cleveland.com Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot said that the Steelers would “pounce” at the chance to sign him.

“As of Thursday, the phone was not ringing off the hook for Baker Mayfield, and this might get a little bit challenging. But I had somebody tell me that the Steelers will pounce on Baker Mayfield if he becomes available. If (the Browns) cut him and he is just out there as a street free agent. They would take him in a minute,” Cabot said in a video chat. “I’m sure a lot of people would. If you could get him for nothing, and the Browns have to eat that money? Then, certainly, somebody would go grab him in that scenario.”

Some have tried to connect the Carolina Panthers to Mayfield. Cabot said she is hearing nothing in that regard but is keeping an eye on the Seattle Seahawks as a possible trade destination.

As far as the Steelers go, I can’t see it. I’ve never gotten the impression that the Steelers as an organization — and coach Mike Tomlin specifically — are all that high on Mayfield. Every time Mayfield’s name comes up during a Tomlin press conference in advance of a Browns game, he is quick to shift the conversation away from Mayfield’s quarterback play and back to Cleveland’s running game and offensive line.

Although Tomlin, at least on occasion, has been complimentary of Mayfield’s prowess in the play action, rollout and bootleg aspect of quarterback play. Those things are allegedly areas of coordinator Matt Canada’s offense that have yet to be unfurled thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility in recent years.

I still don’t buy it, though. The quarterback room is cluttered enough with Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins. Why add Mayfield to the mix when the team still might be tempted to draft a QB this year or in 2023?

That being said, nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing every Steelers fan and team-friendly media member, who has bad-mouthed Mayfield for his shortcomings for four years, suddenly twisting themselves into pretzels to justify and praise the signing.

Trust me. I’ll be scouring Twitter to grab receipts.

Can you imagine after Trubisky’s first interception next year, the chants of “Ba-Ker, Ba-Ker” cascading down from the stands at Heinz Field?

It will be glorious. These are the end times, people. And you may live to see them with your own eyes.


Meeting Malik

While we’re on the topic of the Steelers quarterback situation — and when aren’t we? — Tomlin, Canada and general manager Kevin Colbert were all at the Liberty football team’s Pro Day featuring Malik Willis.

The quarterback prospect certainly had his arm strength and mobility on display.

According to Joe Person of The Athletic, Tomlin and Carolina’s Matt Rhule were the only head coaches at Willis’ pro day.

Willis also apparently had dinner with Tomlin Monday night. Chicken wings, if you are curious.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Steelers selecting Willis at pick No. 20 in his latest mock draft.

Again, my mind is wandering to Trubisky’s first interception and Willis sitting there on the bench and how every Steelers honk on Twitter is going to go from praising the Trubisky signing to kicking him to the curb in the span of 15 minutes of football.

The football gods can’t be that kind of to me. Can they?


Donald’s deal

There’s still nothing official on a reworked contract extension to form Pitt Panther star Aaron Donald.

The Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman hinted that retirement may be coming if his team won the Super Bowl over the Cincinnati Bengals, which it did.

That conversation has cooled in recent weeks and has shifted toward how the franchise may reconfigure a contract for the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Los Angeles general manager Les Snead seems optimistic about the prospect of keeping Donald on the field.

“We definitely have chatted with Aaron, his representation, and we’re trying to come up with a win-win solution to reward Aaron but still definitely be able to continue trying to compete as a team at the highest level,” Snead said via the Los Angeles Daily News. “So, we’re in progress there.”

According to Spotrac.com, Donald has a $22.5 million average salary on a $135 million contract. It runs through 2024. The Penn Hills native is the highest paid NFL defensive tackle but is just 25th among players at all positions.

“I know Aaron’s articulated to us that he would like to be back, and he would definitely like to continue to try to do special things not only as an individual player but as a team,” Snead said.


metro movement

While the Penguins were roasting the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 Tuesday night, there were plenty of other developments in the Metropolitan Division.

The division-leading Carolina Hurricanes held off the two-time Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. The New York Rangers allowed five goals in the second period and dropped a 7-4 fireworks show in New Jersey. Jack Hughes had a pair of goals 70 seconds apart for the Devils. Those were career points No. 100 and 101 for Hughes.

Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals dropped a 5-2 decision in St. Louis as Pine-Richland product Brandon Saad had a beauty of a goal for his 19th of the season.

All of that information means the Hurricanes (90 points) maintain a three-point cushion on the Penguins (87 points) for first place in the Metro. The New York Rangers (85 points) are two back in third. The Capitals have 80 points, that’s good enough for fourth place in the division and the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot.

The idle Boston Bruins hold the top wild card spot with 83 points in the Atlantic Division.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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