Unlike some other blogs, I’m not going to hit you with every position and every guy vying for said position. I’d rather pick and choose the battles that intrigue me and probably you. Today I’m looking at the quarterback position and no, this has nothing to do with the starting position. Number seven has that firmly in his grasp. I’m looking at who is the number two and who is the number three heading into the season.
Yes, it’s probably a no-brainer that Bruce Gradkowski is the clear number two. After years of Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich holding the clipboard, the Steelers finally made the move to get younger behind Ben Roethlisberger.
Gradkowski has proven himself to be an effective NFL quarterback in short spurts but not as an overall starter. His record as a starter is 6-14. One of his best personal performances actually came against the Steelers in 2009 when he threw for three touchdowns in a 27-24 comeback win.
The positive you get with Gradkowski as your number two is veteran leadership and experience. Mike Tomlin was quoted during mini-camp as basically saying “Bruce took immediate command of the offense and did a good job during the two-minute drill.”
Is there a chance anyone catches Gradkowski for the two spot? There’s always a chance, but not in this case. The real race is for number three and that has two dynamic parts that could play out. First, there are only two other quarterbacks on the roster. Free agent John Parker Wilson and fourth-round draft pick Landry Jones. One of them will be the guy, but the second factor will be whether Tomlin chooses to dress three QBs on game days.
Most fans are automatically assuming that Jones will be the third man at QB but I don’t believe it’s that cut and dried.
Wilson does not have the arm strength of Jones, but he manages a game very well and that’s what you want out of your back-up QB. Wilson started at Alabama for two straight seasons and holds Tide records for pass attempts, yards, completions and touchdowns. He also has very good mobility with a forty time in the 4.8 range.
Granted, Wilson has not seen the field much in the last three years as he has spent time in Jacksonville on the practice squad but I can’t rule him out until I see more of Jones in the Todd Haley offense.
Speaking of Jones, he comes in as a somewhat surprising fourth-round selection. With other needs, I thought the Steelers would wait until the sixth or seventh round to select a QB, but they obviously liked Jones.
At 6′ 4″ and 225lbs Jones is a protoypical NFL passer. His best seasons at Oklahoma were his sophomore and junior campaigns where he had more talent around him and less pressure. Jones can make all of the throws necessary in the NFL and has very good zip on the ball. It doesn’t float at all off his hand.
The major weakness of Jones is dealing with pressure, both from the defense and in general. Often times Jones seems to move in the pocket when he doesn’t need to and that hinders him because he isn’t a great athlete. Because of his draft status, all he needs to do is be on par with Wilson. No team wants a fourth round draft pick who isn’t some kind of a factor so Jones has the advantage entering camp.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Charlie Batch. As I wrote earlier this offseason, I believe Batch will be a phone call away in case something happens to either Roethlisberger or Gradkowski. Batch manages the game well and knows the Haley offensive system. Again, this is only an emergency situation, but don’t rule it out.
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.