In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the skills and talents backup quarterback Paxton Lynch.
“He’s got a lot of pedigree,” Tomlin answered. “That’s why he was taken in the first round.”
While Lynch was the 26th overall selection in 2016 by the Denver Broncos, he only appeared in three games while starting two his rookie year. Lynch only got two more starts in the following year, his last naps in the NFL during the regular season. While in Denver, Lynch threw four touchdowns and four interceptions on 792 yards. His 79 completions on 128 pass attempts gave a completion percentage of 61.7%.
In 2018, Lynch failed to make the roster behind starter Case Keenum and a seventh-round draft pick Chad Kelly. Lynch was not picked up the rest of the season by any NFL team until signing a futures contract with the Seattle Seahawks in January 2019.
As for Lynch’s time with the Steelers, coming in part way through the season and being in the third quarterback role in all but one game has hindered his ability to get acclimated with the team.
“In terms of our intimate knowledge of it or our comfort with it,” Tomlin explained, “it’s not very high because of the time in which we acquired him and the nature of which you have to work when you’re preparing to play games. We acquired him after the season started. We had two very young quarterbacks in front of him. We’ve been very thoughtful about making sure that they’ve got a significant amount of reps in terms of overall readiness.”
Being the backup for Week 17, Lynch should get extended reps in practice this week. For those who think that starting quarterback Devlin Hodges may be on a short leash due to his ineffectiveness the last couple games, it will probably come down more to Lynch’s acclamation during this week‘s practices.
“Obviously, we’re going to work Paxton some this week,” Tomlin continued, “but what he’s done to this point does not provide a great deal of comfort for him or for us because of the variables of which I just mentioned.”
While Lynch may not have got the most work with the Steelers throughout the season, he does have an interesting connection to the Steelers coaches. While he was much later on in the timeline as he was a player from 2013 to 2015, Lynch played his college football at the University of Memphis. For those who did not realize the connection, head coach Mike Tomlin and both the Steelers offensive and defensive coordinators Randy Fichtner and Keith Butler all spent time on the coaching staff in Memphis. Tomlin was a graduate assistant in 1996 which was a season during Keith Butler‘s tenure. Butler was on the coaching staff from 1990 to 1997 coaching linebackers, defensive ends, and as the special-teams coordinator at various times.
As for Randy Fichtner, he spent two different stints at Memphis, one of which was during Butler’s time on staff. Fichtner was the quarterbacks coach from 1990 through 1993 and then returned to act as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2001 to 2006.
While the connection may be merely circumstantial, Lynch is now connected to these coaches due to the fact he will be the Steelers backup quarterback this Sunday. It’s been quite the transition in 2019 for the Steelers and their quarterbacks as the three players on the roster at the position in Week 1 were Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Dobbs, and Mason Rudolph. For Week 17, the Steelers will have Devlin Hodges as the starter, Paxton Lynch as the back up, and newly signed J.T. Barrett on the practice squad.
Needless to say, it’s been quite an interesting season for the Steelers in dealing with the quarterback position. And as many Steelers’ fans may know, classifying it as “interesting” may be the understatement of the year.