Since Chuck Noll ushered Pittsburgh into the modern era of pro football, the Pittsburgh Steelers have used 1st round picks on quarterbacks exactly 3 times.
- Their first came when they drafted Terry Bradshaw with the first overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft.
- Ten years later they returned to the well, drafting Mark Malone with the last pick of the first round of 1980 NFL Draft.
Steelers Nation would have to wait 24 more years until the 2004 NFL Draft for Pittsburgh to use another first round draft pick on a quarterback, and the decision to pick Ben Roethlisberger only really came at the behest of Dan Rooney who, by his own admission, was haunted by the teams decision not to draft Dan Marino thinking that the Blond Bomber had a few more seasons, instead of just 8 more throws, left in his arm.
Although is return for 2017 is confirmed, since incumbent Steelers signal caller Ben Roethlisberger has publically as uttered the “R” word it is only fair to ask if the Steelers needs justifying picking a quarterback with their first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Quarterback Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – the Starter
Closing in on his 15th NFL season Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. The Steelers Killer Bees, Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell give Pittsburgh its strongest concentration of talent at the skill positions since the days Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Franco Harris lined up alongside Bradshaw.
- To judge solely by his passer rating of 95.4, Ben Roethlisberger 2016 season was almost identical to 2015’s (94.5).
But that shows you how fickle of a measure passer rating can be as his completion percentage dropped by 4 points, but he threw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions and took fewer sacks. And he did it without the services of Heath Miller, Ladarius Green, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey for much or all of the season.
- If Ben Roethlisberger continued to prove that he was still a championship-caliber franchise quarterback during 2016, his game was not without its flaws.
First, there was a sharp disparity between Ben Roethlisberger’s play on the road and his play at home. Beyond that, in the playoffs with Eli Rogers and Cobi Hamilton as his number 2 and 3 receivers the Steelers needed Ben Roethlisberger to make them look better than they were.
Steelers Depth Cart @ Quarterback Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – Backups
Steel Curtain Rising has written more in defense of Landry Jones that he probably deserves, but such is the nature when two of a site’s writers style and ideas overlap. So be it. There’s no need to repeat our praise of the embattled backup here as Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert agree with Landry Jones is a viable NFL backup. If Landry looked lost in 2013 and 2014, the showed he belonged in 2015 and in 2016 he proved that the previous season was no mirage.
- No, the Steelers cannot expect to contend for a Super Bowl if Landry Jones has to start for an extended period.
But you can say almost every other NFL contender can say the same thing about having to start their backup for more than a few games.
Behind Landry Jones the Steelers have Zach Mettenberger, whom they picked up off of waivers. Both fans and columnists would prefer to seen Mettenberger holding down the number two slot and if he proves himself in training camp he may get that opportunity.
When all is said and done, it could be that the Steelers decision to claim Mettenberger off of waivers will grow in importance to Kevin Colbert’s 2002 decision to sign Charlie Batch after the Detroit Lions cut him loose. At the time it looked like Charlie Batch was merely provided a fringe benefit of additional depth behind Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.
- Ten years later we know that Charlie Batch grew into one of the best backup quarterbacks the Steelers have ever staffed.
Can Zach Mettenberger follow the same script? At this point it is an unknown.
Steelers 2017 Draft Need at Quarterback
While Ben Roethlisberger might have sent shockwaves through Steelers Nation by admitting he needed to take time to decide whether he would play again in 2017, the fact is that he has made similar statements in private. That’s normal and even healthy thought process for a player to take at this stage of his career.
If statements of Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are any guide the Steelers expect Ben Roethlisberger to finish his contract.
- There’s a simple but unpleasant reality at work when it comes to the Steelers replacing Roethlisberger.
Replacing one franchise quarterback with another is easier said than done. Sure San Francisco did it with Joe Montana and Steve Young. Green Bay did it with Brett Favre and Aaron Rogers. The Colts did it with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. It is pretty hard to find other success stories.
The difficulty of trying to find your next franchise quarterback while your team still has one ranges somewhere between completing King Authur’s hunt for the Questing Beast and seeing Haley’s Comet – many try but only a few succeed.
- Even if Ben Rothlisberger’s retirement talk was serious, as Tony Defeo has argued, then it is still too early to think about drafting his replacement.
Word is that 2017 NFL Draft is a weak one for quarterbacks, and even if it were not, the chances of a franchise quarterback slipping to the Steelers at the 30th pick are non-existent.
If the Steelers can select excellent value at quarterback with their third or 2nd round pick then they might want to consider it, but barring that, focusing on players who help bring home Lombardi Number Seven in 2017 as opposed to trying to lasso a unicorn would represent a far wiser investment of Pittsburgh’s draft capital.
But when all is said and done, Ben’s public utterance of the word “retirement” doesn’t change any of the dynamics at work and the Steelers 2017 draft need at quarterback must be considered Low-Moderate.