Steelers Sign Gradkowski; Release Willie Colon

Bruce GradkowskiThe Pittsburgh Steelers today signed QB Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year deal. The Pittsburgh native and former Toledo Rocket will be the back-up to Ben Roethlisberger with Charlie Batch likely in his 3rd-string/coach role.

Gradkowski has played in 37 games in his 7 year career and has thrown 21 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. His record as a starter is 6-14.

My take: In a free agent period with very little to offer in the way of solid back-up quarterbacks, the Steelers probably could have done worse here, but I don’t think anyone should mistake him for Jeff Hostetler backing up Phil Simms. 

The one thing the Steelers did accomplish with this signing is that they got younger at the position and needed to do so in the worst way. In the short term, Gradkowski can be a serviceable player and spot starter but should Roethlisberger miss significant time I don’t have a lot of faith in local product.

Willie Colon was released by the Steelers as a June 1st casualty as the club continues to make changes in an effort to get younger and quicker along the offensive line. The 29-year old has only started 13 games over the last three seasons due to an Achilles’ and biceps’ injuries.

As a mauler, Colon gets the job done but in new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell’s zone blocking scheme, he just doesn’t fit the mold. Toss in the team re-signing Ramon Foster this week and the writing was on the wall.

My take: The Steelers were lucky to get the games they did out of Colon with his injury issues. He’s an effective run blocker but struggles in pass protection and is often a ‘holding call waiting to happen.’ Whether this means Foster steps right in or David DeCastro moves over to the left is uncertain.

There was some talk about Kelvin Beachum moving from tackle to guard but that’s to determined as well. With both Colon’s salary and his injury history, I have no problem with the move. If the Steelers are going to make and effort to dump salary and get younger and more athletic then by all means keep doing it.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.

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