By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog Writer
With the draft now being complete, I will be highlighting the outlook for every position on the Steelers roster leading up to OTA’s and minicamp. First on my list: quarterback.
Players on Roster:
-Ben Roethlisberger (6’5″, 240 lbs.; 34 years old; 13 years experience; Miami (Ohio))
-Landry Jones (6’4″, 225 lbs.; 27 years old; 4 years experience; Oklahoma)
-Bruce Gradkowski (6’1″, 217 lbs.; 33 years old; 10 years experience; Toledo)
-Dustin Vaughan (6’5″, 220 lbs.; 25 years old; 2 years experience; West Texas A&M)
Undrafted Free Agents/Tryouts:
-Jacob Huesman (6’1″, 217 lbs.; 23 years old; rookie; UT Chattanooga)
-Nick Arbuckle (6’1″, 215 lbs.; 22 years old; rookie; Georgia State)
Quarterback is arguably the least contested position on the Steelers roster, with the undisputed starter of course being Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering his 13th year in the league with just as many years being the Steelers signal caller. Behind Big Ben, there will be a little competition between Landry Jones and Bruce Gradkowski as to who will be the primary backup. Over the course of his career, Roethlisberger has missed a decent amount of time due to injury. Steelers fans have seen what life without the future Hall of Famer can be like and it isn’t pretty. Last year, Roethlisberger missed two different periods of time due to injury, leading to Jones having to step in (after Michael Vick attempted and failed to take over the reigns). At best, Jones was
average during his time as the starter, leading to Roethlisberger to come back sooner than many expected to help the team get back to their winning ways. The greatest example of this was in the Wild Card game against the Bengals when Jones almost singlehandedly threw away the game. Literally. Going into last season, Gradkowski was expected to be the #2 quarterback but spent the entire season on the IR. After his contract expired at the end of the season, the team waited to resign him to a contract after the draft and gave him a 1-year contract on Monday. With Gradkowski back in the picture, it will be a battle throughout the preseason to see which player will be the top backup to Roethlisberger and give the team the greatest chance of winning if (but mostly when) Big Ben goes down with an injury again. Keep in mind that Gradkowski is on a 1-year contract and Jones is on the last year of his rookie contract so this could very well be an audition for future years.
After these top three players, the remaining guys are merely camp bodies. Dustin Vaughan went undrafted in 2014 and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys. After successfully making the team as the #3 quarterback, the Cowboys decided to only keep two quarterbacks, thus waiving him from the team. When Vaughan was not signed to the Cowboys practice squad, he became a free agent, later being signed by the Buffalo Bills but being released less than a month later. In January, the Steelers signed Vaughan to a futures contract to help fill out their rosters depth during the offseason phases.
During the draft this year, the Steelers did not draft a quarterback like many teams expected, nor did they sign one as an undrafted free agent. Instead, the team decided to hold tryouts for two players, Jacob Huesman and Nick Arbuckle, so they had players for their rookie minicamp. While both of these players had prolific careers at their schools, neither are expected to make any kind of impact on the team and likely will become training camp casualties when the cut deadlines come around. It will be interesting to see how they perform, though, as they both boast nice athleticism and decent arm strength.
Expected Depth Chart:
- Ben Roethlisberger (Starter)
- Landry Jones
- Bruce Gradkowski
With Roethlisberger being the undisputed starter, most of the quarterback attention will be paid to the battle for the #2 spot. While most people will not agree with Jones being the #2, I felt it spoke volumes that GM Kevin Colbert adamantly defended his stance on not wanting to use Jones as trade bait during the draft. While he was relatively below average during his time as a starter last season, he did show some flashes of playmaking ability (albeit few and far between). Being substantially younger than Gradkowski might convince the Steelers to put their faith in Jones as the primary backup, which might even lead to a small contract extension at the conclusion of the season. When all is said and done, though, I would not be surprised at all if Gradkowski gets the nod merely due to his experience. Either way, this battle will be an interesting one to track as the offseason and preseason move along. In regards to the other players, they will all likely be cut casualties, unless one of them comes in and wows the Steelers and earns a spot on the practice squad. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.
Coming up next: Running Backs/Fullbacks. Stay tuned!