As I’m sure you know by now, Landry, franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins the other day, and now he’s out indefinitely.
You will get your third-career start and face-off against Tom Brady. OK, you won’t really be going up against him, but let’s face it, could you do much worse than anyone who played defense at Hard Rock Stadium and allowed 204 rushing yards to some guy who almost had the same first and last name?
But I digress.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, Landry (some athletes tune stuff out; some don’t), but nobody wants you to start—well, except maybe your mom.
But if your mom is lobbying for you, she’s been a lot quieter than just about everyone else who has taken to places like social media, Yahoo, sports talk shows and comments sections of sites like this to say that you suck really, really bad.
Not only that, but they say you’re the worst backup quarterback in the league (and the league includes Mark Sanchez).
They’ve also been talking in absolutes and have said that the Steelers will continue to lose for the duration of your stay at the top of the quarterback depth chart. For example, if Roethlisberger is out three games, Pittsburgh’s record will be 4-5 by the time he comes back. If he’s out six games, the record will be 4-8. If he’s out for the rest of the season...you can do the math.
These folks have spent the past couple of days questioning why the Steelers’ brass never bothered to upgrade the number two position with one of those super, duper backup quarterbacks who is exactly like Roethlisberger.
But maybe worst of all, they’re now saying they’d rather have Zach Mettenberger as the starter in Roethlisberger’s absence than you, a guy who’s been in the system for four seasons and knows Todd Haley’s playbook about as well as any quarterback not named Roethlisberger possibly could.
I don’t know if you were paying attention to this on Sunday, but Mettenberger was just some guy standing around in street clothes on the sidelines of Hard Rock Stadium.
About six weeks ago, he wasn’t standing on anyone’s sidelines, after the Chargers released him following one offseason in-which he evidently didn’t impress them enough to keep him around as Philip Rivers’ understudy.
The Steelers claimed Mettenberger off waivers, and much like snow in January, I knew this day would come: Roethlisberger would suffer some kind of injury, and the fans would clamor for Mettenberger to start.
Why? Some people cite Mettenberger’s toughness (how do they know he’s tough)? Others point out his 0-10 record as a starter with the Titans, along with his 2,347 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions—I know, right?
Still others, when coming up with a reason for starting Mettenberger over you, say, “Might as well. What’s there to lose?”
Why would they say stuff like that? It’s just how it is. These are the same people who once wanted Terry Hanratty to start over Terry Bradshaw. These are the same fans who once wanted YOU to start over Roethlisberger, when you were a fourth round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft (they know who they are).
Anyway, are you going to let them tell your story, Landry? Furthermore, are you going to let Zach freakin’ Mettenberger be the star of it?
Your critics act like you didn’t enter your first NFL action in the third quarter of a Week 6 match-up with the Cardinals last October and complete eight of 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns to rally your team to a 25-13 win.
They conveniently forget that you started your first NFL game a week later and completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in a 23-13 loss to the Chiefs. They weren’t the greatest of numbers, but they may have been better if not for some drops and those two sacks given up by left tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
Hey, I’m not hating on Big Al. Believe me, that’s the last thing I want to do. However, like you, he was making his first start, and there are growing pains involved with that. Since that day, he’s grown into a decent enough left tackle, but you haven’t had the same opportunity at your position.
But how could you? You’re backing up a Hall of Fame quarterback, and even when you do get to play in all of those preseason games, it’s normally with guys who are either backups or are aspiring to be backups.
Those four interceptions you threw against the Eagles in a preseason game this past August? Ouch. And people have never really gotten over it.
Of course, nobody said a peep when you completed 19 of 22 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown against the Saints a week later in the all-important third preseason game that included starters—starters that you got to play with.
In-addition to your relief duty against Arizona and your start in Kansas City, you’ve also had brief regular season appearances against the Raiders, Browns, Seahawks and the Dolphins the other day, when you only threw one pass.
And there was that brief postseason appearance against the Bengals in January.
Some of those appearances were okay. Others, not so much.
But I’d like to think there’s a difference between being thrust into action in the middle of a game and getting first team reps the entire week, knowing you’re going to be the starter.
I’d also like to think you’re closer to the Cardinals/Chiefs/Raiders/Saints (preseason) Landry than those other editions.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is you can be our hero, this Sunday, Landry. Not only would you be a hero; with a victory over the heavily-favored Patriots, you’d earn a nice little spot in Pittsburgh sports lore.
If the Steelers go on to achieve championship success this year, you’d have your very own chapter as part of the story of 2016.
Years from now, your victory over the Patriots would be referenced on shows like America’s Game.
Some fans might even see you out in public and scream, “We love you, Landry!” And you’d probably smile but think to yourself, “Whatever.”
Couldn’t blame you for that.
When it comes to that, you’d be part of a class of bitter ex-Steelers quarterbacks that includes Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox and Terry Bradshaw (yes, I know, Bradshaw doesn’t belong in that group, but try telling him that).
In conclusion, at the rate it’s going, people will forever remember you as a horrible backup quarterback. But this Sunday, against the mighty Patriots, you have a chance to change all that and become a Steelers hero.
If you can do that, your mom won’t be the only one pulling for you.