Steelers 2016 Draft Needs @ Quarterback – Time to Seek Ben Roethlisberger’s Replacement?

Quarterback is the most important position in football. This has been true since at least the 1970’s, but it is truer today than ever before. Yet, it has been over a decade since the quarterback was a high priority for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL draft, and that’s a good thing.

Will quarterback’s priority status for the Pittsburgh Steelers change in 2016 NFL Draft? Let’s take a look!

Steelers Quarterback Depth Chart Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – the Starter

Ben Roethlisberger has been the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers since an injury to Tommy Maddox thrust him into the game in the second week of the 2004 NFL season. Since then:

  • Ben Roethlisberger has played in 171 NFL games, started 169 of those, and won 113 of those
  • He’s thrown 272 touchdown passes and 147 interceptions
  • Big Ben has also run for 1191 yards and scored 15 touchdowns rushing
  • Opposing defenses have also sacked Ben Roethlisberger an alarming 439 times

Most important, with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers are 11-6 in the playoffs and won Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII. Ben Roethlisberger will enter 2016 as the Steelers unchallenged starter and that status does not look to change in any of the three remaining years of his contract.

Steelers Quarterback Depth Cart Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – Backups

As of this writing, the Pittsburgh Steelers have two other quarterbacks on their roster behind Ben Roethlisberger, namely Landry Jones and Dustin Vaughan.

  • One year ago, the smart money held that Landry Jones would no longer be on the Steelers roster at this point.

The Steelers challenged Jones by bringing in Taji Boyd, Tyler Murphy and Devin Gardner giving all three men a fair shot at unseating Landry Jones from the Steelers 3rd cornerback position. Landry Jones didn’t simply hold off all comer he took advantage of a unique opportunity provided to him.
The combination of Bruce Gradkowski’s injury and the Steelers 5 preseason game, gave Landry Jones and unprecedented amount of work on preseason.

While Jones didn’t leave anyone with the impression that he was the second coming of Johnny Unitas, he did play well enough to show that he belonged. Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert assessment of Landry Jones mixed praise with ambivalence:

I think we went into training camp hoping for that to happen, and in all honesty, in training camp, you saw some flashes, but maybe not enough to really say he’s our No. 2. And then we get into the season, and he saved a couple of games for us. So that was very encouraging. He’s proven to be a viable backup on a short-term basis. Can he do that on a long-term basis? He has to prove that….

That’s about as frank of an assessment of a player that you’re going to get out of Kevin Colbert and hit it’s the nail on the head here. Landry Jones came off the bench to lead the Steelers to wins vs. Pittsburgh West aka the Arizona Cardinals and the Oakland Raiders.

  • But Jones struggled in his start against the Chiefs and looked outright lost in the playoffs against the Bengals.

The Steelers remain open to bringing back free agent quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and they should be, but as Colbert clarified, they need to see him with a football in his hands, something which cannot happen until after the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Steelers signed Dustin Vaughan to a futures contract and while Vaughn will get a fair sake, he’s likely a 4th arm. Brian Hoyer was once briefly a Steelers backup quarterback and Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were eyeing him as Charlie Batch‘s heir apparent.

Hoyer has been relased by the Texans, but his name hasn’t appeared with the Steelers while he is being courted by the Denver Broncos.

Steelers 2016 Draft Need at Quarterback

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe in a 3 quarterback system. It is a philosophy which has spanned the tenures of head coaches Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin. Ergo, the Steelers need additional depth behind Ben Roethlisberger that goes beyond Landry Jones.steelers, draft, needs, priority, 2015

  • Kevin Colbert has as much said he wants that depth to come in the form of Bruce Gradkowski.

That means that the Steelers are not looking for it in the 2016 NFL Draft. There are a handful of free agent quarterbacks who the Steelers might consider if Gradkowski doesn’t convince them he can still play.

  • But if a top quarterback prospect fell to the Steelers in say, rounds 3 or 4, should the Steelers consider taking him?

It is difficult to give a blanket response to such an open ended question without knowing who the Steelers have already taken, but given the Steelers needs at defense the answer is probably “No.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers need depth at quarterback that is perhaps currently absent from their roster, but they’re unlikely to fill that need in the 2016 NFL Draft.

However, our Steelers draft needs analysis makes its evaluation based on absolute need, and in that light the Steelers 2016 draft need at quarterback must be considered Moderate Low.

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