Reasons why the Steelers take a step back at quarterback in 2013

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

There is a perceptual problem that is inevitable, and that's bad news for Landry Jones.

First things first. This has nothing to do with Ben. I wouldn't be surprised if Roethlisberger had the best season of his career given the system and potential weapons he has at his disposal combined with his own continuing maturation. This has to do with the position group as a whole and why it will be next to impossible to believe they will be as good a group as in the recent pass.

For the last several years the Steelers had an unusual group of talented quarterbacks. Nobody in or outside of Steeler Nation talked about it much, but it really was rather extraordinary if you look beyond the surface of things. Take 2010 for an example. Quarterback is considered the premier position in football, in terms of physical skill sets, intelligence and leadership. The Steelers that year had six. Ben of course, a two time Super Bowl winner and likely on his way to the Hall of Fame some day. Byron Leftwich who, like him or not, was a high draft pick, a franchise quarterback who led his team to the playoffs. Charlie Batch who was a starter for Detroit for several years and Dennis Dixon.

With Ben facing a lengthy suspension, all attention turned to the competition between Dixon and Leftwich for who would lead the team in Ben's absence. Want symmetry? Batch (Charlie) then like Batch (Baron) today was written off early and was considered to be the odd man out when Ben returned. But he was pressed into service when injuries to Dixon and Leftwich left him the last man standing and played a critical role in leading the team to an early 3-1 record. Because of the injuries all four players were retained.

And who were the other two? Hines Ward and Antwan Randle El were starting quarterbacks at SEC and Big Ten schools respectively (remember Super Bowl 40?).

Put aside for the moment who is on the field playing the position, as well as whether or not you like their game. Name another team that had that kind of firepower in terms of leadership and experience. There were three starters in the quarterback room, two slumming as reserves, plus three guys who had led BCS caliber programs also hanging around the facility. Just as one example; in an interview last year Antonio Brown stated that one of the most important influences in his development was...Leftwich. More than a few people have opined that Batch was like having a coach on the field. There is no way that we, standing on the outside of that locker room can begin to fully understand the impact of their presence. But if you are only looking at on the field performance then let me suggest that you just don't get it.

This is not to say that it was a mistake for the team to move on. Nothing lasts forever. But lets be clear, and I like Gradkowski, but he has always been a number two (at best), and unless somebody dies is likely to always be a number two. That's a downgrade. And he's the best of the bunch as far as the newbies are concerned.

Which brings us to Landry Jones and the perception problem.

Part one. Wasn't Russell Wilson a fourth round draft pick? Let's not even talk about Luck and RG III. The idea that a lengthy apprenticeship is normal or inevitable is by the boards today. Some quarterbacks are walking off campus directly into the playoffs.

Part two. Whether we fully realize it or not, and I suspect that many of us don't, whatever flaws you might felt were associated with that group they set a high standard. The third stringer beat our chief rival and eventual world champions. The second stringer might have if he hadn't played most of the game injured. That's, shall we say, unusual.

Part three. I'm not part of the pro Jerrod Johnson contingent in Steeler Nation. But developmentally he was way ahead of where Jones is now, and its fair to say that Johnson represents the nadir of quarterback development for the Steelers in the past half decade at least.

Do you see the problem? When compared to what has been the common expectation Jones seems like a child that was born several months premature. You want to say can't you put him back in the oven and have him cook a while longer.

I can't and won't say whether he will develop into a good or even perhaps a great quarterback. But as we are fond of saying the standard is the standard.

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