The Pittsburgh Steelers have looming decisions to make on over 20 unrestricted free agents to make, and few will prove to be more interesting than the one they make on backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Capsule Profile of Bruce Gradkowski’s Career with the Steelers
Todd Haley’s inaugural season as the Steelers offensive coordinator saw Pittsburgh start three quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch. Leftwich played OK in one game and got hurt in another. Batch played poorly vs. Cleveland and then led the Steelers to a dramatic upset on the road vs. the eventual Super Bowl Champion Ravens.
Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert had seen enough, and signed Bruce Gradkowski as a free agent, and they drafted Landry Jones in the 2013 NFL Draft. Ben Roethlisberger took every snap in the 2013 regular season and no other quarterback threw a pass in the 2014 regular season.
Gradkowski’s number was called in the Steelers playoff loss to the Ravens….
The Case for Steelers Keeping Bruce Gradkowski
The case for keeping Bruce Gradkowski comes down to this: 2-3-22-0-0.
That was Gradkowski’s stat line from his only action under center for the Steelers. Yes, that is mundane, but it came in the 4th quarter of a playoff game, and the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat.
Now take a look at this stat line: 2-5-11-0-1
- That’s Landry Jones post-season resume, which came in the 4th quarter of the Steelers win over the Bengals.
The first job of a backup quarterback is to not lose the game. Bruce Gradkowski only saw spot duty in the playoffs, but he didn’t blink.
Landry Jones blinked, big time.
The Case Against Steelers Keeping Bruce Gradkowski
Bruce Gradkowski is turning 33, and he entered training camp on the PUP list, got activated, and then injured in his only action. The sole premise of a having a backup is to have someone who is reliable, and Gradkowski couldn’t stay healthy for more than a week.
Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Bruce Gradkowski
Those who think that Gradkowski’s injury history should make the Steelers decision an open and shut case would be wise to consider this story:
There once was a 30 year old backup quarterback who had only seen spot duty in games for the Steelers over two seasons.
Early in 2004 training camp this 30 year old quarterback broke his leg and was out for the year. The backup returned in 2005, 2006, and 2007 delivered when called upon. However, in 2008 he broke his collar bone in Steelers preseason opener and was out for the season. In 2009, he came in during overtime after concussion, but managed to break his wrist by extending his arm to break a fall.
- At this point, with another veteran and a young and up and comer behind him, this frail, aging quarterback seemed to be done.
The Steelers indeed planned to cut him, but the veteran got injured. So the young and up and comer started while Ben Roethlisberger served his suspension. Then the young up and comer (Dennis Dixon) got hurt.
- So this quarterback who was too old and too fragile stepped in and delivered 2 wins for the Steelers.
A year later, the same situation evolved, with this veteran quarterback on the outside looking in. Except the young-up-and-comer got hurt in training camp. The veteran, who was too old and too injury prone was the last man standing, literally. And if you haven’t figured it out already, that is Charlie Batch.
- As soon as Bruce Gradkowski went on injured reserve, Ed Bouchette speculated that the Steelers might decided to move on.
Ed Bouchette has good sources inside the Steelers organization, so he could very well be reporting what he has been told off the record. IT says here that the Steelers medical staff knows a lot more about Bruce Gradkowski’s health than Steel Curtain Rising does. And there are viable veteran backups available in free agency.
But, if he’s healthy, the Steelers should consider bringing Gradkowski back.
Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section.