Recent Steelers Third String Quarterback History Shows Mason Rudolph CAN Help Pittsburgh in 2018

Ben Roethlisberger’s remarks on Mason Rudolph have put the Steelers signal caller firmly into the news. Given where we are in the off season, its all that anyone in Steelers Nation is talking about.

Mason Rudolph, Steelers 2018 3rrd round pick, Steelers third string quarterbacks

Think Mason Rudolph can’t help the Steelers in 2018? Guess again. Photo Credit: John Raoux, AP, via PennLive

Steel Curtain Rising has already taken Ben Roethlisberger to task for his implicit attitude behind his statements on Rudolph. If you haven’t read it already, you can do so here. But there’s another bone to pick with Big Ben’s comments, a bone that’s completely objective in it comes from one of the few seemingly uncontroversial things he said:

Nothing against Mason. I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now. [Emphasis added]

OF all of Roethlisberger’s remarks on Rudolph, his assertion in bold is likeliest to elicit a “Well, he’s got a point there” nod from even his harshest critics. Because on the surface it’s hard to dispute his logic. After all, third string quarterbacks don’t do much, even in practice, right?

Third string quarterbacks rarely earn even footnotes in football history. For most of their history, the Steelers offer no exception. When was the last time you saw a parent-child combo strutting around Heinz Field sporting Rick Strom and Brian St. Pierre jerseys on throwback weekend?

  • But in this case, experience trumps logic, and Ben’s own history with the Steelers shows his claim about Steelers 3rd string quarterbacks is wrong.

Think back to the Steelers 2005 season that culminated with victory in Super Bowl XL. That Super Bowl season saw the Steelers start their third string quarterback twice, as Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch started four games that season.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers Jaguars Playoffs, Steelers vs Jaguars

Ben Roethlisberger after Jacksonville loss. Photo Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

  • Its almost certainly as coincidental as it is ironic but Steelers third string quarterbacks have enjoyed their moment in the sun during the Roethlisberger era.

We covered much of this ground on the eve of the 2015 season when justifying Landry Jones roster spot in the face of fans who felt he should have been cast aside in favor of Mike Vick. Let’s spell it out in Black and Gold again:

  • In 2005, Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox both saw starts after holding the QB number 3 designation
  • In 2006, third string quarterback Dennis Dixon started against the Ravens
  • In 2010, Charlie Batch started games against Tampa Bay and Baltimore as the third stringer
  • In 2012, a Byron Leftwich injury again thrust Charlie Batch from 3rd to first as Batch started two games
  • In 2015, injuries and ineffectiveness of Mike Vick elevated Landry Jones from 3rd stringer to starter

Just looking at the math, during the Roethlisberger era about every third season has seen a Steelers third string quarterbacks suit up as a starter….

…And two full seasons have elapsed since that last occurred.

Past performance may not predict future results, but it would behoove Ben Roethlisberger to do what he can to get Mason Rudolph ready to play sooner rather than later.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Draft Joshua Dobbs, Quarterback, Tennessee – The “Shouldn’t Have Been” Surprise

“Steelers Draft Josh Dobbs, in 4th round, quarterback, Tennessee.”

Raise your hand if you were both surprised and dumbfounded by the Steelers 4th round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. (Mine’s raised.)

Raise your hand if you felt the Steelers had far more pressing needs to address with a pick as valuable as a 4th round draft selection. (Mine’s raised.)

Raise your hand if you felt that, given Ben Roethlisberger’s sentiments towards retirement, you felt that ALL of the Steelers 2017 draft capital should be devoted giving ben the weapons and players need to bring home one last Lombardi before Big Ben begins his “Life’s Work.” (Mine is STILL raised.)

  • If you’re hand has been raised, then you’ve likely got a lot of company in Steelers Nation.
Steelers draft Josh Dobbs, Joshua Dobbs

Steelers 2017 4th round pick Joshua Dobbs, former Tennessee Volunteer. Photo Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images

But you know what? All of us should have known this was coming back in January. Why argue that? Look no further than to the words of Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II who declared, “We haven’t drafted a quarterback for several years now, so we’re probably due to look at the position.”

  • While the Steelers President didn’t quite commit to anything, there’s also not a lot of ambiguity in Art II’s words.

As Observer-Reporter scribe Dale Lolley put those words into context for his readers, offering, “The Steelers will likely take a shot at a quarterback in the middle rounds of this year’s draft, much like they did with Jones a few years ago.”

Which is exactly what happened.

  • Let’s be clear, given the Steelers needs at inside linebacker and tight end, Steel Curtain Rising isn’t on board with using a 4th round pick on a quarterback.

But, as we’ve admitted more than once in recent days, there’s a reason why Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are drafting players, and yours truly is blogging. After the Steelers disastrous 2008 NFL Draft, the one player that this site took issue with was the pick of Dennis Dixon.

And while it’s true that Dennis Dixon never developed into the replacement quarterback for Charlie Batch, he did compile a 2-1 record as a starter, which isn’t bad for a 5th round pick.

Reviewing the Steelers Pick of Josh Dobbs on Its Merits

Necessary or not, Josh Dobbs is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Dobbs brings the Steelers a 22-13 record, and combines strong arm strength with excellent mobility and an ability to throw well under pressure. While at Tennessee, Dobbs also earned a degree in Astrospace Engineering, which is not something you see every day in the NFL.

As Dobbs highlight reel reveals, excellent football players can indeed by smart:

When asked why he’s subjecting his body (and potentially his mind) to the rigors of playing football, Dobbs offered this:

I love the game of football. I have loved it since I played it when I was five. My mom signed me up at five years old, when we were running around in helmets bigger than your body. Football is all I know. Going to college, I could have played football or baseball, but I chose football because that was the sport I couldn’t see myself not playing. I love the game. I give it all, every time I step onto the field. It’s great to have a backup plan for 15 years down the road when I can’t play football. But until that day, I am giving it all to the sport I love.

When ask for his take on the Steelers 2017 fourth round selection Neal Coolong, Founder of NFL Wire Network which is part of USA Today Digital Properties, provided this evaluation:

Joshua Dobbs is a nice prospect. I see more in him than I did or do Landry Jones. Brings a nice athletic element. Forces competition for Landry Jones’s job next year, the final year of his contract, and they’d have him cheap for two years after that. While I can’t say overall I’m thrilled with the position they selected, I don’t mind Dobbs in the fourth.

So be it. Like it or not, the Steelers made Joshua Dobbs their 4th round pick. As noted a year ago when evaluating Kevin Colbert’s history with 4th round draft picks, the 4th round represents the balance point of the draft.

In time, we’ll know which direction Joshua Dobbs will go in. For now we’ll simply say Welcome to Steelers Nation Mr. Dobbs.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Like It Or Not: Steelers Will Live and Die with Landry Jones Until Ben Roethlisberger Returns

Pittsburgh Steelers fans had better get used to the sight of Landry Jones with his hands under Maurkice Pouncey’s but, as they’ll see it  week vs. New England and, if reports are correct, perhaps beyond that.

Not that concern isn’t warranted. This was a Steelers team that came close to upsetting the New England Patriots team in the 2015 season opener and has been itching for a rematch faster than you can say “HeadsetGate.”

steelers backup quarterbacks, landry jones

Like or not, Steelers Nation must get used to seeing Landry Jones under center

So fans’ desire for Ben Roethlisberger rise from the trainers bench, al la the Karate Kid, are well founded:

But if the longing for John Norwig to morph into Mr. Miyagi is understandable, the calls to start Zach Mettenberger or even more outlandish suggestions that the Steelers trade for Mark Sanchez, are not. For better and for worse, the Steelers will live and die with Landry Jones as their signal caller for as long as it takes for Ben Roethlisberger’s knee to heal.

There are lots of reasons for this, but everyone overlooks the biggest one….

Steelers Nation Keeps Up with the Changing Times

Bob Labriola and other members of Steelers Nation’s “4th Estate” have derided the outcry to immediately purge Landry Jones form the roster. And they’ve got the right reaction, unless you really think that Peyton Manning, Johnny Manziel or Tim Tebow would do better.

But if the sarcasim of the Labriola’s of the world is justified, then you also must credit these Steelers fans for being smart about one thing: They know a franchise quarterback when they see one.

Seriously.

From 1984 to 2004 the most popular player on the Steelers roster was whoever was backing up Mark Malone, Bubby Brister or Kordell Stewart. Neil O’Donnell won a bit of a respite, but even he heard calls to start Mike Tomczak in mid-1994. (Tommy Maddox was around long enough.) But between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger’s time, if the backup quarterback wasn’t the most popular player in Pittsburgh, he certainly earned an honorable mention.

That’s has changed, and as well as it should, but “Landry Jones Anxiety” also reflects another more recent change.

Steelers Nation Appreciates What It Had When Its Gone

Since the beginning of the Bill Cowher Era the composition of the Steelers quarterback has remained pretty predictable: A designated starter, an experienced backup, and an up and comer.

The Steelers coaching staff and front office, whether it’s been headed by Tom Donahoe or Kevin Colbert, believe in experienced backups but have repeatedly tried to staff the 3rd string quarterback position with a player they can nurture into a backup. During the 1990’s they tried, unsuccessfully, with Mike Quinn, Pete Gonzalez and Anthony Wright. In the 00’s the Steelers tried it with Brian St. Pierre and a slew of 5th round draft picks.

  • The closest they got was with Dennis Dixon, who started 3 games for the Steelers, but he never matured into a stable backup.

Landry Jones is the first to achieve that status, and he’s unlikely to lose it save for an injury or a meltdown.

Mike Tomlin Stands By His Quarterbacks

Fans hoping to see Landry Jones on a short, or even medium leash can hold their breath for one simple reason: Rightly or wrongly, Mike Tomlin stands behind his quarterbacks. Going into his 10th year as head coach, Mike Tomlin has never pulled or benched a starting quarterback because of performance. Tomlin is loyal, sometimes to a fault, to his quarterbacks.

In both 2011 and 2012, Mike Tomlin had an experienced, healthy Charlie Batch standing on the sideline as his starter struggled, noticeably limited by injury, but Tomlin kept Roethlisberger and Leftwich in.

  • Given that precedent, it is hardly likely that Tomlin will turn over his offense to newly arrived Zack Mettenberger, who has yet to throw a pass for the Steelers in preseason.

Love it or hate it, the Steelers will live and die with Landry Jones until Ben gets back.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Panthers Bouncing Brandon Boykin Reinforces Fundamental Fact: Kevin Colbert Makes Good Decisions

Steelers OTA’s will bring a week of fresh news to Steelers Nation, as last week’s biggest “Steelers story” was the Carolina Panthers cutting Brandon Boykin less than two months after signing him to a one year $840,000 contract in favor of Shaquille Richardson.

  • Someday a college professor somewhere will write a paper about the role that the internet and social media play in sustaining Steelers Nation.

In the early ‘90’s a story like the Boykins, outside of Pittsburgh, would have merited maybe a line at two the “Transactions” column crammed at the back of a sports page. Don’t believe me? That’s how the Boston Globe treated the Panther’s decision to cut Barry Foster after the Steelers had traded him.

  • Today every Steelers site dutifully wrote their “Panthers cut former Steeler Brandon Boykin”  post
  • Steelers Nation simultaneously debated the decision on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat.

So be it. This isn’t a Watch Tower post, but rather one that shows how the Boykin story illustrates a basic point:

  • Kevin Colbert usually makes good personnel decisions.

Ah you say, but what about Dri Archer and Shamarko Thomas to name two recent, high profile draft day disappointments?

Fair enough. Kevin Colbert doubtlessly would like to have both draft picks back. But NFL drafting success is part art, part science and part blind luck. But when it comes to evaluating the talent on the Steelers roster, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are pretty good decision makers.

When Brandon Boykin signed with the Panthers, large swaths of Steelers Nation reacted as if the Steelers had just lost Rod Blount Boykin, to use a phrase coined by Dale Lolley. A case could be made for keeping Boykin, but he was no Rod Woodson or Mel Blount. Nor was he an Ike Taylor or even a Deshea Townsend.

  • Pittsburgh’s decision to go all in on Senquez Golson, Doran Grant and an unnamed draft pick (now Artie Burns) certainly carries risk for Steelers 2016 title hopes.

But now Ron Rivera and Dave Gettleman, two guys who just took their team to the Super Bowl, have made decided to trust in Shaquille Richardson over Brandon Boykin. Richardson, if you’ll remember, was the Steelers 2014 5th round draft pick who got cut in training camp and has yet to play a down of NFL football.

  • None of this should suggest that Kevin Colbert remains immune from making personnel mistakes.

That is hardly the case. The Steelers let Ryan Mundy go in 2013 and if his stat sheet is any guide, he’s had two solid seasons in New York and Chicago. That same off season, the Steelers gave up on Willie Colon due to his injury history and opted not to renew Doug Legursky’s contract. You’d better believe that when Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the year and Mike Adams couldn’t cut it at right tackle, Mike Tomlin wished he’d had either Colon or Legursky at his disposal

  • Keenan Lewis is another player the Steelers let get away in the 2013 off season that they wish they could have back.

But the decisions to let Mundy, Colon, Lewis and to some extent Legursky walk were as much or almost as much the result of salary cap restrictions as they were results of talent evaluations. That doesn’t exempt Colbert from criticism, because a general manager has to make those choices.

  • But outside of Lewis, Colon and Mundy, you’d be hard pressed to find someone the Steelers cut who thrived elsewhere.

What about Kraig Urbik?

Urbik is certainly one of the “ Ones that got away” from the Steelers 2009 draft class, but the Steelers wanted to keep Urbik, but were forced to expose him to the wavier wire because Byron Leftwich’s injury forced the Steelers to keep Charlie Batch on the roster during Ben Roethlisberger’s 2010 suspension. Urbik’s started 57 games for the Bills over the last six seasons, but the Steelers decision to keep Batch looked pretty smart when Dennis Dixon went down in week 2.

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin may miss on draft picks. They might overestimate the development potential of a player, such as Cortez Allen. They might trade for guys who disappoint, such as Levi Brown, Felix Jones or…. Brandon Boykin.

But when the Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin let a guy go, its not too often you’ll see the guy make a name for himself elsewhere.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Resign Bruce Gradkowski, Who’ll Compete with Landry Jones for QB No. 2 Slot

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert seemingly left the door open for the Steelers to pick a quarterback during the 2016 NFL Draft, but when the picks where in a quarterback was not among them. Nor did the Steelers bring a quarterback in with their 2016 undrafted rookie free agent class. Then word broke that Brian Hoyer, whom the Steelers liked, signed with the Bears.

  • The stars seemed to align for a Bruce Gradkowski return and it appears that will happen.

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review is reporting that the Steelers have resigned Bruce Gradkowski to a one year deal. The move comes with a bit of a twist, as the Gradkowski will apparently have to compete with Landry Jones for the right to backup Ben Roethlisberger.

This development hardly comes as a surprise, as Gradkowski’s repeated last summer caused Steelers Digest Editor Bob Labriola to compare Gradkowski to Byron Leftwich. As Steel Curtain Rising argued when it made the case for Gradkowski’s return, Charlie Batch also bore the “brittle” label, yet proved to be more durable than either Leftwich your youngster Dennis Dixon.

Gradkowski is a Pittsburgh native, hailing from Green Tree and is a graduate from Seton-La Salle. He’s been in the league since 2006, having played for Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland and Cincinnati before landing in Pittsburgh in 2013. Gradkowski has not thrown a pass in a regular season Steelers game, but did look sharp in relief of Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers 2014 playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

While Landry Jones improved tremendously in 2015, ultimately unseating Michael Vick as the Steelers QB number 2, his play in the Steelers playoff win vs. the Bengals left a lot to be desired. In addition to Roethlisberger, Jones and Gradkowski, the Steelers also have Dustin Vaughan on their roster.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Steelers Free Agent Analysis Bruce Gradkowski – The Case for Keeping Gradkowski in Pittsburgh

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

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.

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. 

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Defending Landry Jones Roster Spot

Landry Jones holds a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 roster. This should surprise no one, as keeping three quarterbacks is standard operating procedure for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That knowledge has done little to quell the outage of many in Steelers Nation.

Both Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin believe fundamentally in a 3 quarterback system and, however unpopular their decision to retain Landry Jones might be, recent Steelers history has vindicated their philosophy.

  • Conventional wisdom indicates that if any team needing to play its third quarterback is by definition a hopeless cause.

That’s often, but not always true. Since Chuck Noll arrived in 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelers have almost always opened the season with three quarterbacks on their roster. 1989 provides an exception, as the Steelers went with Bubby Brister and Todd Blackledge until Brister’s injury forced them to activte Rick Strom from the practice squad.

  • But outside of 1989, it’s hard to find a time when the Steelers have only carried two quarterbacks.

And, looking at Steelers history, it’s also hard to find a time when the person manning Steelers third quarterback slot played an important role in the season’s outcome. Sure, Noll’s three way quarterback derby between Terry Bradshaw, Joe Gilliam, and Terry Hanratty in 1974 continued right up until the playoffs, but all three men entered the league as potential starters.

Bill Cowher continued the tradition when he arrived in 1992, but aside from the Slash phenomenon and Jim Miller’s relief of Mike Tomczak in 1995, the third quarterback did what third quarterbacks do – hold a clipboard.

The trend held in the early part of Kevin Colbert’s tenure. Charlie Batch arrived in 2002 but didn’t throw a meaningful pass until 2005.

  • But recent Steelers history reveals that the role of the third quarterback is evolving.

In 2009, 2010, and 2012 Steelers third string quarterbacks have started or gotten significant snaps a total of 6 games. That includes Dennis Dixon’s start in 2009, Charlie Batch’s efforts in 2010 and again Batch’s two game starting stint in 2012.

  • For the record, the Steelers went 3-3 in those games and forced overtime in another one of those.

The Steelers created a lot of controversy when the drafted Landry Jones in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft. That controversy only intensified when Landry Jones struggled mightily in both the 2013 and 2014 preseasons. Indeed, if you use Brian St. Pierre’s second preseason performance as a guide, Jones failed to reach even that bench mark during the Steelers 2014 preseason campaign.

By all accounts, Landry Jones improved considerably during the Steelers 2015 preseason. No, he’s not proven himself as a number 2 NFL quarterback, but he’s probably shown himself worthy of the number three slot.

No one will dispute that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Super Bowl hopes hinge on Ben Roethlisberger’s health. Michael Vick has shown he be relied on as a short term backup.

While no one would really like to see Landry Jones standing behind Cody Wallace or Maurkice Pouncey outside of the victory formation, its far better to have him there than some street free agent should both Roethlisberger and Vick become unavailable for a short stretch.

Looked at in that light, Landry Jones roster spot becomes a little easier to swallow.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Defending the Steelers Michael Vick Signing

Who said preseason was boring? Just days ago the story on Steelers quarterbacks centered on Landry Jones’ development and Bruce Gradkowski’s PUP activation. Now Gradkowski is on injured reserve and the Steelers have signed Michael Vick

All one need do is peek at Twitter:

While some tweets such as the above, were humorous, others were not:

In a word the Steelers Michael Vick signing is controversial. And this is understandable. Michael Vick is a convicted felon and who spent 21 months in federal prison for his role in running a dog fighting ring. There’s no sugar coating what Vick did. He mangled dogs, he drowned them, he electrocuted them.

  • Such crimes are as heinous as they are inhumane.

The Steelers nonetheless have signed Michael Vick and welcomed him into their locker room, sending much of Steelers Nation up in arms. Defending the Steelers Michael Vick signing might not be popular, but the move is consistent with the franchise’s values, it is morally justifiable and finally it makes football sense. Now let’s proceed to these three points in order.

Steelers Michael Vick Signing is Consistent with Franchise Values

Steelers fans and Steelers bloggers, including this site at times, like to wrap a halo around the Steelers and the Rooney’s as the NFL’s good citizens. The fact is that the while the Pittsburgh Steelers generally run one of the cleaner shops in the NFL, they don’t deserve any halos.

Yet even if one accepts that, there are other who charge that the Steelers Michael Vick signing contradicts the values the franchise has long stood for. One such Tweet from Dominic DiTolla illustrates this:

I’ve only interacted with Dominic DiTolla a few times on Twitter, and do not claim to know him well, although I was a fan of his work at the old NicePickCowher site. His overall commentary on Twitter regarding the Vick signing is reasonable and balanced, but yours truly disagrees and argues that there is a “Steelers Way” (albeit one that falls far short of being saintly) and the Vick signing does not contradict that.

  • Wait! How can you say that knowing what Vick did?

Consider this scenario:

A player going through a divorce needs money. Dan Rooney offers to help and asks him to come to Pittsburgh. The player drives from Texas. He arrives in Pittsburgh too late and the Steelers offices are closed. So the player drives west through Ohio….

The player, who has a 9 millimeter and a shot gun with him, feels that trucks are trying to run him off the road and starts shooting at their tires. The police begin a high speed chase. The player drives off the highway, breaks an axel, loses a tire and abandons his car, at which point he fires at a police helicopter and wounds an officer in the leg. The player tries shooting at another officer on foot but his gun jams. He doesn’t stop until police literally put a gun to his head.

  • Such a player would certainly have played his last down for the Pittsburgh Steelers, right?

No, that player was in fact Ernie Holmes. The Steelers learned of the incident, vouched for Holmes, got him released under psychiatric care, and Holmes went on to start in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X alongside Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White as the original Steel Curtain.

The Steelers gave Ernie Holmes a second chance. And while Holmes was always a handful, he never remotely did anything approaching the highway incident in Ohio again. If Holmes deserved a second chance, so does Michael Vick.

But Wait! Holmes Had Psychological Problems, Vick’s was Premeditated Crime

Yes, unlike Vick, Ernie Holmes had diagnosed psychological problems. Vick’s was a cold blooded premeditated crime pure and simple. All true. But Michael Vick has gone to prison for his crimes. He has been punished, he has repented, he has kept a clean record since then, and he has worked to make amends with animal rights groups.

Fans forget, but former Pittsburgh Steelers player and assistant coach Tony Dungy has personally counseled Vick since his release. There are few men in the NFL with more integrity than Tony Dungy. Tony Dungy is Mike Tomlin’s mentor. He knows the Rooneys well. Mike Tomlin mentioned doing due diligence before signing Vick. You can bet that part of that involved a call to Tony Dungy.

  • The Steelers do have a history of getting rid of bad apples (see Bam Morris to name one).

But the Steelers also have a history of giving players second chances. Two of them are named James Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger. In short, Michael Vick committed his crime, paid his debt to society, stayed clean and has earned a second chance.

The Steelers Signing Michael Vick is (Plausibly) the Right Football Move

The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers will not and should not enter the season considered Super Bowl favorites. But they are Super Bowl contenders. The same thing could be said in 2008. Unfortunately, early in training camp that summer Charlie Batch broke his collar bone.

  • Mike Tomlin wanted a backup quarterback capable of leading the team should Roethlisberger go down.

Within a day Byron Leftwich and Duante Culpepper were in Latrobe, working out for the Steelers. Both former first round draft picks looked strong, but Leftwich was comfortable with his backup role. The Steelers signed Leftwich. Fortunately they didn’t need him much, but when Ben Roethlisberger went down vs. the Redskins in Washington, Leftwich stepped in and the Steelers offense didn’t miss a beat.

  • Anyone argue that the Steelers dominate that second half the way they did if Dennis Dixon were to have played?

Tomlin himself explained the Steelers decision to sign Vick by going back to that summer of 2008. Landry Jones might have improved, but he clearly isn’t ready to play for the Steelers should Roethlisberger go down even for a short stretch.

Is Michael Vick ready? That’s an open question, as Dominic DiTolla’s tweet indicates:

Those numbers are not encouraging in today’s NFL. Divisions within Steelers Nation over Vick’s viability as an NFL quarterback are almost as sharp as they are over the moral issues surrounding his signing.

  • At 35, Vick’s days as an NFL starting quarterback are over. Fortunately the Steelers are not bringing him into start. God willing, they won’t need him.

But the bottom line is that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin both believe in the dying art of staffing your backup quarterback position with an experienced veteran. While stats geeks like Bill Barnwell argue that this is salary cap folly, the success of players like Tommy Maddox, Leftwich and Batch speak vindicate Colbert and Tomlin’s approach.

  • In that light, Vick was the best backup veteran quarterback available.

Perhaps the Steelers could have picked up someone via the wavier wire but that’s involves a big roll of the dice on something that might not happen. Even then, the said newly unemployed veteran would not know the Steelers offense.

Does Michael Vick still have anything left in the tank, even as a backup? If all goes well, Steelers Nation never finds out.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Ben Roethlisberger’s Performance Between Contracts

News that the Steelers resigned Ben Roethlisberger spread like wildfire on Friday the 13, as you’d expect it to. The next question that was on everyone’s lips was of course, “How much did the Steelers pay Ben.” Those numbers have slipped out, as it’s a 5 years 99 million dollar contract, with incentives that could take it to up to $108 million.

Thanks to Ed Bouchette’s reporting in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we now know that Roethlisberger’s contract comes with a 31 million dollar signing bonus in addition to a 4.25 million dollar roster bonus, both of which he can pocket this year.

  • Roethlisberger only brings the Steelers about 1.5 million dollars in salary cap relief, although that’s because his number was high already from restructures.

The breakdown of Roethlisberger’s contract falls like this:

2015: $17,245,000
2016: $23,950,000
2017: $18,200,000
2018: $23,200,000
2019: $23,200,000

Dejan Kovacevic has said that the deal’s structure represents a new approach to managing the cap hit that all franchise quarterbacks carry. It remains to see how that will play out, although Kovacevic and others expect the first restructure to happen in 2016, when Roethlisberger’s cap value jumps to almost 24 million.

Roethlisberger, Between Contracts

This of course is Ben Roethlisberger’s second 100 million dollar contract. He signed the first one on March 4th 2008 and a lot has happened since then.

Here is a look at Ben Roethlisberger’s performance between contracts, by the numbers:

1 Super Bowl victory, which came less than a year after he signed is first extension, as the Steelers triumph in Super Bowl XLIII.

2 Super Bowl appearances, Super Bowl XLV in addition to Super Bowl XLIII
2 children born to Ben Roethlisberger and his wife, Ben Jr. and Baylee Marie
2 sexual assault accusations but 0 criminal complaints lodged against Roethlisberger (sorry, folks, but its very much part of Ben’s story.
2.8 – the average number of players to start at quarterback, per season, for the Cleveland Browns

3 quarterbacks not named “Roethlisberger” started games for the Steelers during this time, namely Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich

4 games were missed by Ben Roethlisberger due to suspension
4 games were missed by Ben Roethlisberger due to injury (so much for the “oft injured Roethlisberger” thesis)

5 The number of playoff victories quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger
6 Different Steelers caught playoff touchdown passes from Roethlisberger

7 rushing touchdowns were score by Ben Roethlisberger
12 separate players started at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns (yeah, let’s rub it in!)

19 post season interceptions
21 touchdown passes were thrown in the post-season by Roethlisberger

23 Different receivers caught touchdowns thrown to them by Roethlisberger
31 the length of his longest rush between contracts (vs. Oakland, in the game he got cold cocked in)

67-36 Roethlisberger’s record as a starter between contracts
167 touchdown passes

94.3 Ben Roethlisberger’s passer rating between contracts
273 number of times Ben was sacked between contracts

2,565 days passed between Ben Roethlisberger contract signings
3,518 completed passes

27,384 yards – Ben’s regular season passing yardage total between contracts

While all of these numbers are impressive (except for perhaps the suspension related ones and the sacks), the ultimate value of Ben Roethlisberger’s contract will be measured in Lombardis.

Let’s hope number 7 can help the Steelers climb the Stair Way to Seven.

Thanks for visiting. Click here for more of our Steelers 2015 Free Agent Focus.

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!

Two Bills Starters Highlight Steelers Personal Mishaps

Ike Taylor left the Patriots game with a concussion. The Steelers, having doubts about his availability for today’s game vs. the Bills, did what they have done all year long:

  • They signed someone they’d cut previously and cut Isaiah Green

In this case that was DeMarcus Van Dyke. To be fair to management, unlike Stevenson Sylvester and Jonathan Dwyer, Van Dyke was waived-injured, so his is not a case of bi-polar disorder infecting Steelers personnel decisions.

But the fact that the Steelers are facing the Buffalo Bills adds irony to Pittsburgh’s latest spin of the personnel merry-go-round. And news that broke late Friday night – that offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams were listed as questionable for the game – only deepened the irony.

That’s because like Arizona before the, the Buffalo Bills have become sort of Pittsburgh Northeast. Look at the Bills roster and practice squad and you’ll see Steelers castoffs like Frank “The Tank”Summers, Corbin Bryant, and Dennis Dixon. But those men are just role players. The Bills have two men starter at a position area where the Steelers need the most help (from a health stand point):  Offensive line.

Urbik of course is not well known to Steelers fans, coming to Pittsburgh in 2009 Draft as one of the team’s 3rd round draft picks. Urbik didn’t play or dress in 2009. Urbik had and “under the radar” training camp in 2010 and seemingly had secured himself a roster spot, having rose above Justin Hartwig on the depth chart at center.

But then Byron Leftwich injured his leg in preseason, and the Steelers needed to carry Charlie Batch, in addition to Dixon, on their depth chart (’10 was the year of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension.)

  • Someone had to go, and that was Urbik, whom the Steelers thought they could sneak on to the practice squad. Alas, Bills General Manager, Doug Whaley, snatched him up.

Legursky’s story with the Steelers is more well known, having established himself as one of Kevin Colbert’s undrafted rookie free agent steals.

Legursky went on to start 13 games at center or guard over three years, including Super Bowl XLV. He even did spot duty at fullback. Yet in spite of that versatility and despite no established depth at center (remember, Kelvin Beachum vs. Tennessee?), the Steelers let Legursky go to Buffalo with only a whimper (pun intended, Guy Whimper). Not only was Legursky lightly regarded by Steelers management, the Steelers press corps. didn’t even bother to note his departure.

To be fair, the Urbik and Legursky play guard, and tackle is the area where Pittsburgh needs help at this weekend and has needed help at all year long. But the fact is that more quality offensive lineman, especially versatile ones, give a team extra agility to manage injury situations.

  • The Steelers don’t have that now, in part because the Bills saw something in their personnel cast offs that Steelers management missed.

Remember that today as Mario Williams is tossing Roethlisberger around like a rag doll.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising. Or… Follow @SteelCurtainRis

Like this? Share it with Steelers Nation!