I’m just going to go ahead and get this out of the way; Ben Roethlisberger will be the starting quarterback and Bruce Gradkowski will be the back-up for the 2014 NFL season.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss the all important third quarterback position. The Steelers will have just two other quarterbacks in camp unless something strange happens between now and July 25th when the team opens camp.
The odds-on-favorite is Landry Jones who enters his second season with the Steelers. Jones was a fourth round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and before my haters hit the ‘comment’ button let me explain something.
I don’t hate Landry Jones as some of you think I do. What I hate is the fact he was taken in the fourth round in a draft where the team had so many other needs. So please don’t respond with all of his collegiate stats and records. I’m well aware of those but you must understand that great college numbers don’t always equate to NFL success.
Now that my ‘Landry Jones Disclaimer’ is over, let’s discuss the guy trying to take his clipboard away from him.
In the hours following this May’s NFL Draft, the Steelers signed Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay to a free agent contract. Kay is nowhere as accomplished as Jones was coming out of college but he offers some very interesting possibilities.
At 6’4″ tall and 228lbs, Kay has an inch of height and about eight or nine pounds on Jones so for the most part, those particulars are thrown out the window. In his last two seasons at Cincinnati, Kay played in 25 games and at times showed flashes of brilliance and other times flashes of overwhelming inaccuracy.
The positive part of his college game is that he had completion percentages of 63 and 66 in his final two seasons. Landry Jones’ completion percentages his last two seasons at Oklahoma were nearly identical. The major exception is that Jones threw as many passes in one season as Kay did in his final two seasons.
Jones also saw much more action in his Freshman and Sophomore seasons than did Kay so in terms of overall experience Jones has a clear advantage. It goes without saying that Jones also has an advantage in terms of familiarity with offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense. It might be just one year, but that is still a year of learning the offense and more importantly, being around veterans Roethlisberger and Gradkowski.
One overwhelming advantage Kay has over Jones is his ability to run with the football. In his final two seasons for the Bearcats, Kay rushed for 443 yards on 120 carries. During Jones’ final two years at Oklahoma he rushed 46 times for -134 yards. In other words, these really are two very different quarterbacks. Those numbers are of course skewed because of the offenses the two QBs ran and the styles in general but a clear distinction is obvious.
If you speak with a random sampling of people who know the Steelers, they’ll tell you that last year in training camp that John Parker Wilson was every bit as good if not better than Jones was. The reason why Jones got the nod was simple; he was a fourth-round pick whereas Wilson was an undrafted free agent.
I’m confident the same type of thing will play out this year in camp as well. Unless Kay is just overwhelmingly better than Jones, there’s no way he beats him out.
Look for Jones to once again be the third-stringer in Pittsburgh.
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 weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.