Competitive people want to compete. Athletics represent competition at it's purist form. Nobody wants a player who is thrilled to sit and watch. That would better describe a fan than a player.
Quality depth on a football team is made up of talented individuals who compete for playing time and in the process drive the starters to perform at the best of their abilities. As the old saying goes, back ups are one play away from being a starter. Therefore, your back up players should have starter qualities, in a perfect world. That statement would be true for every position, with maybe one exception. Quarterback.
Truly effective back up QBs are a unique breed. They are expected to prepare each week as if they are going to see action, knowing all too well that nobody in the whole stadium, outside of maybe their own family, wants to see them in the game. If they are required to enter the contest then chances are something bad has happened to the starting QB, outside of taking over for mop up duty.
They need to have some starting qualities, but not enough to actually challenge the starter. If they do, a quarterback controversy is sure to materialize. There has to be a clear pecking order to prevent such a situation. A QB controversy can fracture a locker room and splinter a fanbase. While it may appear advantageous to have a Steve Young or Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, this scenario can lead to some rather ugly divorces. We all understand that the NFL is a business, but franchises are built on their legacies. Legends have been impacted negatively by similar situations that where handled incorrectly.
The established starting QB can't afford to always be looking over his shoulder. It will negatively affect his comfort level. Tom Brady didn't like the vibe he was getting from Jimmy Garoppolo and next thing you know Jimmy is in San Francisco. Last year's Super Bowl victory confirms the Patriots made the right choice.
So what constitutes a perfect back up quarterback? A recent example would have to be Nick Foles, which is surprising considering the fact he has proven to be an NFL caliber QB. A Super Bowl winning QB actually. What makes Foles the exception to the rule? It boils down to his personality and his character. He is the rarest of competitors that can place the best interests of the team ahead of his own, a truly admirable quality. Foles has earned his starting position in Jacksonville, and is the type of quality individual that is easy to root for. When he's not playing the Steelers of course.
A back up QB has to wear many hats. He should be equal parts player, coach, mediator, and confidant. He is far more than a glorified clipboard holder. He has to be ever present mentally in the game, from signalling in plays to being a second set of eyes for the starting QB when he comes off the field. This was one area that Landry Jones excelled at with his experience. Last season Ben Roethlisberger had two inexperienced youngsters still wet behind the ears as his back ups. It is highly doubtful they had much to offer Ben in this regard considering their experience levels.
That is my lead in to the question I want to submit to the BTSC community. Who is the greatest back up QB in Pittsburgh Steelers history? We will set a timeline of the last 50 years as a parameter.
My choice for the best back up QB in Steelers history would have to be Charlie Batch. Batch fits all the criteria of a perfect back up quarterback. He was an accomplished performer, actually skilled enough to fill in for multiple games when necessary. However, he understood the importance of the pecking order as a former starter himself. He pulled double duty as the unofficial assistant quarterback coach and offered valuable insights to the rest of the QBs on the roster, especially Ben. He displayed leadership with his actions, both on and off the field. Finally, I never felt discouraged or defeated when he was forced to enter the game. The Steelers could still run their offense. They still had a chance to win the game.
Now it's your chance to chime in. Who do you think was the best back up QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last five decades? Please vote and explain your selection in the comments section below. Thanks for your participation and as always, Go Steelers!
Who is the best back up QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last 50 years?
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