Over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced a wide variety of questions regarding their roster and depth chart. One question that they’ve never had to worry about is that of who will start at quarterback. Veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger has made sure of that with his outstanding play under center. While there are no real concerns over who will be the starter at quarterback this year, there are legitimate questions over who will claim the other spots in the depth chart. So who are the other names in the quarterback conversation in Pittsburgh, and where will they end up?
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger
No surprise here.
QB2: Landry Jones
Landry Jones is one of the more polarizing figures in the recent history of the Pittsburgh Steelers. To some fans, he’s a serviceable backup, to others, he’s the worst quarterback in the NFL. To myself, he’s somewhere in the grey area. Simply put, Jones is not a starting-caliber quarterback. He knows Pittsburgh’s system and can execute a decent amount of plays necessary to win, but it goes without saying this is not the guy to build a franchise around. He is an inconsistent passer and struggles with throws that most starters have no problem making. He was drafted to be a backup, and has been exactly what’s expected of one: average. He’s 2-2 as a starter. He has a TD-INT ratio of 7:6. His completion percentage is right above 60%, and his career passer rating is a shade below 83%. While it might be frustrating to watch (I grimace every time I see Jones take a snap) in comparison to the skillful and at times beautiful play of starter Ben Roethlisberger, keeping his status as a backup in perspective can help ease the pain. As much as his frustrating and inconsistent play makes me wish the team would move on from him, I fully expect Jones to remain a Pittsburgh Steeler, and more importantly, the backup quarterback, in 2017. In addition to having signed a two-year deal in March, he is familiar with the system and a known commodity. The coaching staff know exactly what to expect from him, and that should be enough to keep him QB2 until a developmental prospect is ready to move forward.
QB3: Josh Dobbs
Speaking of developmental prospects, the Steelers nabbed a great one in this year’s draft. In the fourth round (pick 135), Pittsburgh drafted Josh Dobbs of Tennessee, a versatile and intriguing prospect capable of fulfilling the duties of a modern NFL QB. Dobbs has everything necessary to succeed at the next level. He has prototypical size, is an accurate deep passer, and is able to make plays from both in and out of the pocket. In addition to outstanding physical traits, Dobbs has a high football IQ and showed a clear progression through his 2016 season. His level of play increased at a steady rate, which is a tough feat in the SEC, one of college football’s premier conferences. He also earned a degree in aerospace engineering while at Tennessee, which speaks to his dedication, ability, and commitment to excellence. The sky is the limit for Dobbs, but right now, he will likely be the third QB on the roster. The Steelers coaching staff value experience and familiarity above all else, and while Dobbs may have a brighter future than Landry Jones, he needs time to develop and learn the system before he can step into the role of backup. It should be noted that the Steelers cut former third-stringer Zach Mettenberger shortly after drafting Dobbs, which should be indicative that they intend to keep three quarterbacks, with Dobbs in the third spot. I expect Dobbs to continue his progression in the NFL at a quick but steady rate, but while Dobbs may turn heads at training camp or in the preseason, it’s unlikely he’ll overtake Jones for the backup spot until he’s proven himself later in the 2017 season or next.
Practice squad: Bart Houston
Houston, an UDFA out of Wisconsin who was signed mostly for the role of a training camp QB, has an intriguing profile worth a closer look. At 6’4, 235 lbs, Houston fits the mold of an NFL QB, and he has a big arm to go with it. However, inconsistency in college led to him going undrafted. Houston spent most of his college career as a backup, and even in his final season, he lacked real playing time. He was in and out of the starting lineup, going 4-1 as a starter. Houston has the ability to push the ball down the field with ease, but small sample size and lack of experience don’t do him any favors. His potential earned him a tryout with Oakland earlier in the offseason and more recently a minimum contract with the Steelers. His play will be a story to watch for training camp, and he will likely be a practice squad stash, but barring an injury or extremely poor play from one of the other backups, it’s almost certain he won’t make the final roster.
Will Dobbs overtake Jones as the #2 QB? Will there be a surprise cut? Will an extra player make the final roster? Let us know in the comments below