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Why the Pittsburgh Steelers signing Bruce Gradkowski was the right choice

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The Steelers resigned Bruce Gradkowski for a one year contract to backup Big Ben. There have been questions over his productivity and his age, but this was the most logical choice for Pittsburgh in 2016.

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Pittsburgh has brought back hometown quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Now, this does seem like a relatively weak move for the Steelers in the their search for a reliable backup QB. Nonetheless, re-signing Gradkowski for a one year deal was the best option available at the time.

First, I want to settle some things that are likely to come up in the comments: Yes, he didn't play as back up last year due to an injury sustained in the preseason. Yes, he hasn't played in a non-preseason game since the Wild Card round loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. But, given the options, he was the only real choice Pittsburgh had in front of them.

Landry Jones is still on the roster - this tells me that Gradkowski's backup position is not set in stone. It seems to me there will be a competition between the two for the primary backup role. This can only be good for the team because Jones' potential was shown last season. He started his first NFL game in 2015, and although inconsistent, showed his potential to keep the offense afloat in Ben Roethlisberger's absence. His pass to Martavis Bryant for a touchdown against Kansas City, and his game against the Arizona Cardinals clearly show Jones is at least capable. He can get better - and competition between and Gradkowski will show that. This means that even if Gradkowski loses, it will push Jones to get better.

Pittsburgh, to my personal surprise, did not draft a late round QB this year. I see why now. I think that the signing of Gradkowski shows either one of two things - either Pittsburgh had a particular quarterback they wanted, and failed to get him, or that their intention was to sign Gradkowski all along and waited until after the draft to keep a haze over their draft strategy. I would like to think that they wanted to go for a QB, but seeing the moves they made in the draft to bolster the defense, keeping Gradkowski unsigned until after the draft to confuse other teams seems more likely.

No matter how you cut it, Pittsburgh needed someone to be a backup in case Roethlisberger gets put out of action, which has seemingly become a yearly occurence. So, if Pittsburgh couldn't/didn't want to draft a QB, were there any alternatives to Gradkowski? If there were, they don't seem too obvious.

Brock Osweiler certainly wouldn't be signed, being as his role as backup to Peyton Manning following Manning's injury showed that he can play well - and he's now with the Texans as starter. I don't think he was ever going to sign with Pittsburgh due to wanting to earn big money and to be a starter. Robert Griffin III was just as unlikely. He wanted first team play after Kirk Cousins took the first string position in Washington. So, he went to the Browns to play. The only reason he would go there would be to get some more first team play.

The most likely alternative was Brian Hoyer, now signed to the Bears to play behind Jay Cutler, as he had first team experience. But signing him would cost $2 million dollars, and that's more than double the cost of Gradkowski's contract ($965,000). Clearly, the salary cap was at play. Finally, Gradkowski has one thing over the rest of these options - he knows the playbook. To some people that may not count for much, but for 3 seasons with the team he will know that book well.

Sure, Gradkowski isn't ideal, but on the other hand, Jones' inexperience isn't ideal either. However, being as Pittsburgh didn't draft a QB and considering all free agent options were not great, I think the team was right to have Gradkowski back for another season. This will likely be Gradkowski's last season in the NFL, and fans should put their faith in him as he was the right choice, given the circumstances.