Bruce Gradkowski is the unquestioned backup to starter Ben Roethlisberger, and fourth-round draft pick Landry Jones has the third string job all to himself. The Steelers are expected to rest Roethlisberger in their final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, leaving Gradkowski and Jones to share what is left of the team's preseason preparation snaps.
Gradkowski, a Pittsburgh area native, is a true veteran. He has been a backup and a starter, and he knows all to well what is expected of him regardless of the offensive system. Jones is finding out exactly what the difference is between playing quarterback in college and the NFL. However, both still have lessons to learn before the Steelers find themselves relying on them in the regular season.
Jones has not looked like the 16,000 yard passer he was at the University of Oklahoma, although head coach Mike Tomlin has noticed improvement as Jones adjusts to the professional game. The biggest knock against Gradkowski since he joined the Steelers in free-agency has been his tendency to lead his receivers into potentially violent contact with anticipating defenders.
For a while, Wilson seemed like stiff competition for Jones, battling for the third quarterback spot once held by Charlie Batch. However, as camp wore on, Jones began to separate himself from Wilson and consumed the majority of the snaps not played by Gradkowski or Roethlisberger.
In 2012, Jerrod Johnson was in Wilson's place of fourth on the depth chart. Johnson was able to hang on through all four games of the preseason, but was eventually released in the final wave of roster cuts. The team allowed Batch and Johnson to split halves against the same Panthers team they will face in 2013 in an effort to preserve Roethlisberger and Leftwich. This year, preservation gives way to preparation.
When the Steelers play the Panthers, Gradkowski and Jones will most likely each play an entire half. They each need to make the most of their opportunities to correct the mistakes they've made in previous preseason action, without getting injured or having a hand in any of their teammates being wounded before the regular season has a chance to start.
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