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Steelers back-up quarterbacks fail to impress

Bruce Gradkowski passed the test of providing comfort level as the second-string quarterback, but any notions of Landry Jones or John Parker Wilson being groomed into an eventual starter is laughably false at this point.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

I will do my best not to offend here, but I don't think I'll succeed.

Literally for years there have been fans who have been complaining about the situation at quarterback. The guys (Charlie Batch mainly) we had were old and fragile and not very mobile or mobile enough. What Pittsburgh needed was an infusion of youth. Someone who would be "groomed" to be Ben's heir, and (I'm reading into the comments because they were presented this carelessly) pretty much anyone would do.

Was this what you had in mind?

Obviously, Landry Jones is God's way of keeping Kevin Colbert humble. Either that or transformation of Jones from caterpillar to butterfly will be remarkable to witness. Colbert has been hitting it out of the park with his other draft picks this year. He could be forgiven if he began entertaining the 'genius' label. Well, its been a long time since this team has had to really try to bring a young quarterback along so maybe I don't remember so well and there really are much better days ahead. But so far...damn.

Part of the perceptual challenge here is adapting to a new normal. The Steelers had been incredibly blessed at the quarterback position for years; a legitimate franchise player back up by two guys who had successfully started in the league, one of whom had also been considered franchise quality. They clearly knew what they were doing when they stepped on to the field, adapted to the limitations of the personnel around them and as best they could made chicken salad out of the other stuff.

Gradkowski impressed as a solid, veteran No. 2 QB, not necessary any more talented than the players he replaced but bringing the benefit of being younger, and hopefully, healthier. And, like Batch has local roots so fans will be pulling for him in an automatic manner. He was aware enough and mobile enough that when confronted with hard charging defenders aiming to secure their NFL careers at his expense he got out of Dodge and was able to make plays. He successfully found Markus Wheaton often enough that he helped us all get warm and gooey over the third rounder from Oregon State. Unfortunately, that was the end of the good news.

John Parker Wilson was who he would have to be given his profile, which is to say, not much. He made some decent plays but in the final analysis he couldn't adjust to the fact that his blockers were only going to give him so much time and space to make plays. This meant that he either had the get the ball out of hands faster, or like Gradkowski (and Ben at his best) he had to flee just enough to elude the guy trying to drive him into the ground like a tent peg.

The easy thing to say is that Wilson would be preferable as the team's No. 3 to Jones, but that is forgetting that Wilson is more experienced. There is less reason to believe that there is an unrealized upside in which to evolve.

The question with Jones is more basic at this point; is there an upside? And can it be found and developed before everyone retires?

I'm trying to be charitable here. But it's not like he just developed a bad case of stage fright when the lights came on. His performance appears to have matched the reports of what he has been doing in camp, and in OTAs before that. It begs the questions what did they see in this guy, and where did it go? If he had come out of some place like Tiffin and had started off with a basic mistake that led to a safety then you might give him more leeway. But coming from a big time program like Oklahoma should translate into certain advantages when stepping up to this level, not the opposite.

The one person who should be rooting hard for Jones would be Justin Brown. He functioned as Jones' security blanket and ended up topping the team's receivers in receptions even though he had to channel Lynn Swann in order to haul in some of those errant throws.

All the questions going forward have to do with faith and patience. Is Landry Jones more a David Paulson or Kelvin Beachum, that is someone for whom we can't trust our lying eyes and will eventually pan out? Or is he Limas Sweed, or worst Alonzo Jackson?

One thing is probably certain; based upon what we've seen so far, if we should happen to go to Baltimore on Thanksgiving night with our number one and two quarterbacks on the shelf, it likely won't go well. Make sure you've completely digested dinner before viewing.

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