You know Steelers’ Football is right around the corner when the Training Camp Battle Reports come out and that’s what I’m starting today. First up? The quarterbacks.
Major Battle: Landry Jones vs Bruce Gradkowski
As we head into Training Camp 2016, Ben Roethlisberger is your starting quarterback. OK that’s out of the way….
The real battle is going to be at number two where Landry Jones enters the final year of his rookie contract as the current number two signal-caller. With Gradkowski out for the season last year, Jones still needed to go through Michael Vick to eventually start during Roethlisberger’s absence.
Jones was 1-1 in his two starts last season losing at Kansas City and “getting the win” over Cleveland in Pittsburgh. You’ll recall Jones was injured early in that game. Big Ben came off the bench to rip the Browns apart.
Jones would end up seeing action in seven games last year and ended up with a quarterback rating of 77.7. His completion percentage of 58.8 needs to be better should he be forced into action in 2016.
The biggest issue I see with Jones is his ability to get past his first and second reads. When he can drop, set and throw then I think he’s a more than capable quarterback. When he’s forced to go through his progressions, things deteriorate rapidly.
Outside of that, and that’s no small thing mind you, he knows the offense and what is expected of him.
For Bruce Gradkowski this is likely the end of the road. At 33 years old, the journeyman has not played in a game since 2014 and hasn’t thrown an NFL regular season pass since he played with Cincinnati in 2012. Last year his shoulder kept him out of commission all season which motivated the Steelers to sign Michael Vick.
Following OTAs, Mike Tomlin made it clear that Jones was the number two heading into camp and that’s exactly what he and Todd Haley expect. When Jones was drafted in the fourth round, the Steelers had every expectation that he would be Roethlisberger’s primary back-up for many years. While it has taken awhile to get here Jones should maintain his lead and claim the the number two job in camp.
There is a fourth quarterback in camp named Dustin Vaughan and I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t mention him. Vaughan played in Dallas last season after finishing his collegiate career at West Texas A&M. He threw for a school record 123 touchdowns and over 10,000 yards so this kid can sling it. That said, it would be a monumental upset for him to make the roster.
With Vick no longer an option, Gradkowski takes on the “Charlie Batch role” as Big Ben’s veteran sideline adviser. That probably isn’t the best scenario for Gradkowski. Like anyone else, he wants to play too but the reality is that he’s just not going to see the field barring catastrophic happenings.
Winner: Landry Jones
Photo Courtesy: pennlive.com