The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a spot they haven't been in since 2004. They have to worry about the future of the quarterback position. This all stems from the fact is has become a toss up whether Ben Roethlisberger will even return in 2021. The Steelers may already be caught with their pants down if they wanted to add a top level talent to the position. But you can never say never, especially when it comes to the draft.
This is no minor worry either, the most important position in all of professional sports is quarterback. When you dive into it even deeper, you will realize the NFL is a more passer driven league than ever before and the Steelers could very well have the worst quarterback in their division. This spot has to be addressed, and it must be addressed soon.
Today I’m going to dive into Kevin Colbert’s history of quarterbacks in the Steel City and see whether there are similar characteristics between them, similarities which could suggest who the Steelers will target in the coming years.
I will split them into three categories; draft picks, free agents, and mid-season free agents.
Clearly, the draft pick category will influence this exercise most, as these players are scouted on more than just on-field play.
Let’s do this.
Ben Roethlisberger - 6’5” 240, Miami (OH) - MAC, Multi year starter, Round 1 Pick 13, Pocket Passer
Brian St. Pierre - 6’3” 224, Boston College - BIG East, Multi year starter, Round 5 Pick 163, Pocket Passer
Dennis Dixon - 6’3” 217, Oregon - Pac-12, Multi year starter, Round 5 Pick 156, Dual-threat
Landry Jones - 6’4” 225, Oklahoma - Big 12, Multi year starter, Round 4 Pick 115, Pocket passer
Josh Dobbs - 6’3” 216, Tennessee - SEC, Multi year stater, Round 4 Pick 135, Dual-threat
Mason Rudolph - 6’5” 235, Oklahoma St. - Big 12, Multi year starter, Round 3 Pick 76, Pocket Passer
Three things immediately jump out at me here. Number one, you have to be 6’3” or taller and if you’re shorter than 6’4” you have to be able to run. Number two, the Steelers have been plucking quarterbacks out of the Big 12/southern schools in recent years. Number three, you must have been a multi-year starter in college.
Out of the draft prospects available in 2021 this knocks guys like Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Jamie Newman, and Ian Book. While elevating guys like Kyle Trask, and Kellon Mond.
A problem pops up with the 2022 quarterbacks however. The top end guys are all incredibly undersized. Which in the frigid AFC North is a real issue. Of the available prospects, only Tyler Shough meets the height requirement but weighs in at a skinny 217, and has also just entered the draft portal. If the Steelers don't draft a quarterback in 2021 they may wait until 2023 for Clemson’s, DJ Uiagalelei who was built for northern football.
Kent Graham - 6’5” 231, Stats pre-Steelers: 11,561 yards, 36 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, 52% completion percentage
Charlie Batch - 6’2” 216, Stats pre-Steelers: 9,016 yards, 49 touchdowns, 40 interceptions, 56% completion percentage
Tommy Maddox - 6’4” 220, Stats pre-Steelers: 948 yards, 6 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 48% completion percentage
Bruce Gradkowski - 6’1” 217, Stats pre-Steelers: 4,057 yards, 21 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, 53% completion percentage
Byron Leftwich *acquired via trade - 6’5” 250, Stats pre-Steelers: 10,811 yards, 52 touchdowns, 38 interceptions, 58% completion percentage
Zach Mettenberger - 6’5” 224, Stats pre-Steelers: 2,347 yards, 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 60% completion percentage
Dwayne Haskins - 6’4” 230, Stats pre-Steelers: 2,804 yards, 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 60% completion percentage
This list can be described as underwhelming. In all honesty, I don’t believe this group hides any secrets because outside of Kent Graham they were all signed to be backups. A couple of noteworthy things is players’ ties to the city of Pittsburgh, or having worked with Steelers coaches prior to coming to Pittsburgh. I also want to reiterate the size of these players. Hardly anyone on this list is a small bodied player and this is a trend I imagine continues for a long time.
Mid-season Free Agents
Michael Vick - 6’0” 210, brought in because of injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, and Landry Jones. Vick appear in five games in 2015.
Paxton Lynch - 6’7” 244, brought in because of injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, and Mason Rudolph. Lynch only dressed as a back up for one game before being released the following training camp.
Devlin Hodges - 6’1” 210, Originally brought in to just be a ‘camp arm’ Hodges re-signed with the Steelers practice squad following the trade of Josh Dobbs. Subsequent injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph trust Hodges into the starter role of six of eight career games.
These players were brought in to fill a glaring hole. I wouldn't worry about these three when trying to decipher the Steelers next move.
What does this mean?
The Steelers search for a quarterback comes down to a couple of specific criteria. They are typically above average height, and a dense build for frigid, and physical division affairs, with a couple inch exemption if the player is mobile. They prefer their draft picks to be multi-year starters, and have recently been targeting the Big-12. As for drafting players I will offer two names for each of the next three drafts:
Pocket Passer: Kyle Trask
Dual Threat: Trey Lance
Pocket Passer: Tyler Shough
Dual Threat: Desmond Ridder
Pocket Passer: DJ Uiagalelei
Outside of the draft, only a couple free agents come to mind, but they all come with their own faults. Dak Prescott wants to reset the quarterback contract market, which the Steelers would never do. Sam Darnold throws back breaking interceptions. And guys like Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins are getting older and less effective.
As for right now, Ben Roethlisberger is still the guy, and if he, or the team, decide to split from one another then Mason Rudolph will get the next swing as the team’s starting quarterback. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't have any more competition come training camp.
But what do you think? Who do you think will be the next long term option for the Steelers at quarterback? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.