USA Today Writer Steven Ruiz came out with a bold prediction today that the Pittsburgh Steelers would not make it over 10.5 wins in the 2016 season. I'm not going to argue whether his conjecture is or isn't correct---it was, how he went about saying it, that caught my attention.
Has Pittsburgh found a good backup for Ben Roethlisberger? No? I’m taking the under, then, because Ben is going to miss a few games. It happens every season, and this offense — as talented as it is — is not good enough to prop up the woefully awful Bruce Gradkowski. And the Steelers always seem to drop one or two games they have no business losing. They’ll go 10-6 then go on a run to the AFC Championship game.
When Mr. Ruiz states, "Ben is going to miss a few games. It happens every season". I scratch my head. Roethlisberger started all 16 games in the 2013 and 2014 season. The offensive line from those 2013 and 2014 seasons, is largely intact. Big Ben did miss 4 games in 2015, the Steelers also went 2-2 in those games. Bruce Gradkowski has started 20 NFL games and has appeared in 17 others. Knowledge of the Pittsburgh system front and back from his two years in the Steel City, is reason to hope. I am not going to say he will come in and not miss a beat, but that is not the job of a backup QB either. A backup QB's job is to come in knowing the offense and limiting the amount of mistakes.
Ruiz has the Packers, Seahawks and Panthers making it over the 11-win hump. These are solid teams and I'm not going to dispute that, but their backup QB situations makes the Black and Gold's situation with a 2-time SB winning QB, an experienced backup QB with deep knowledge of the offense and an offensive line that is gelling as the seasons go by, look pretty bright.
Take the Panthers, Derek Anderson would fill in for Cam Newton if he were to fall due to injury. I looked up " woefully awful QB" in the dictionary, and there was a picture of Anderson donning his Brown's uniform. Or was the picture from Arizona where he went 2-7 as a starter with ten INTs to seven TDs with Larry Fitzgerald in the prime of his career? Newton has been unmercifully pounded, absorbing 185 sacks in his five-year career. While some dwell in assumptions, it is not unthinkable that Anderson could be asked to fill in for an injured Newton, at anytime. That is a bad QB scenario. Anderson did make two solid starts for Carolina in 2014 that resulted in wins. Not very impressive when they both were against the 2-14 Bucs.
Packers main man Aaron Rodgers has been very durable throughout his career, except when he went down in 2013. Green Bay quickly imploded and went 2-4 while marching in three different QBs. Backing up Rodgers is probably an even scarier situation now, than it was then and second year QB Brett Hundley has not taken a snap in a regular-season NFL game. This once highly touted prospect took a nose dive in the 2014 draft due to a myriad of issues and was finally selected in the fifth round. Rodgers has been sacked 182 times in the past five years, leading the league in 2012. Again, it is not unthinkable that Hundley could be standing in for Rodgers at any given time. That's another bad situation.
My third example, Russel Wilson has not missed a game in his solid four-year career. Seattle's current direct backup is UDFA rookie QB Trevone Boykin. That has to be terrifying to Seahawk fans. Marshawn Lynch is no longer there to shoulder the load, which would lead to devastating consequences if Wilson were to be out, even for a game. Wilson, who is prone to taking some big hits, knows that he has to stay upright, or the Hawks season is over. For a player who is only 200 pounds, 164 sacks over his four-year career has to be worrisome.
Mr. Ruiz points base his entire prediction on the fact that Big Ben has had more then his fair share of injuries over the years. That's true. He has. But under the circumstances, it's not a reason to knock a few wins off a team that has a more-than capable backup in Gradkowski. If Mr. Ruiz was a coach, I wonder which of the four backup QBs he would prefer to have under center if his respective starter went down due to injury...since we are focusing on assumptions.