Decision On Which 4th Quarterback Stays Should Come Prior To Training Camp

When the Pittsburgh Steelers broke mini-camp last week, they did so with five quarterbacks on their 90 man roster. When the team reports to Latrobe in late July, you have to think there will only be four on the roster.

There are hardly enough reps to go around in training camp for three quarterbacks, and you have to think with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley still trying to install his new offense, that even four is one too many.

If one has to go it will obviously be either Troy Smith or Jerrod Johnson. Many probably think that Smith has a slim shot at beating out Charlie Batch for the number three spot on the depth chart, but I think otherwise. Batch has the experience, and despite his limited playing time over the years, which has resulted in a few wins, he has a strong veteran presence in the locker room. Baring Batch getting hurt during the preseason, he should be a lock for the 53 man roster, in what figures to be the final year of his career.

The ship has sailed quite a while ago with Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner. Yes, he still has the arm strength, but that is it in my opinion. His upside is a career clip board holder and nothing more. If he was NFL quality, he would not have spent the 2011 season playing in the UFL behind fellow Heisman Trophy-winner Eric Crouch.

While Johnson too is a long shot to make an NFL roster this year, he has youth on his side and practice squad eligibility to boot. At the very least he can mop up some preseason games to get some work against NFL competition. The knock on Johnson coming out of college last year was his accuracy and his arm strength, both of which have reportedly improved this past year. I must disclaimer that report as it seems it might have very well come out of the camp that worked with Johnson. Biased? Perhaps.

If you want to point to salary cap reasons as a reason to keep one over the other, you need not to. Johnson does not even factor into the Rule of 51 number. Smith does, but you have to consider replacement offset if he is released. Both Batch and Byron Leftwich signed one-year qualifying contracts that come with discounted cap hits in addition.

My thoughts aside on both, how will this play out? Both Leftwich and Batch are not spring chickens. Although the upside of Smith is nil, he does have game experience on his side. The Steelers just do not seem poised to keep a quarterback on the practice squad, so that should be enough to eliminate the need to keep Johnson. I can see Smith being kept as insurance should either Leftwich or Batch get injured during the preseason. If both stay healthy, Smith will be released during the first or second cut down.

Expect the Steelers to make that decision over the course of the next few weeks. Who would you keep and why?

  • Beerman9

    For pre-season purposes – just keep enough arms to run camp without burning them out. For the season, I’d prefer Leftwich and Batch because: 1. I feel both could fill in and win a game or 2 with a short term injury to # 7- anything longer than that Steelers are in trouble anyway 2. Reports seem to indicate Batch is the good Mentor and is smart – that has to help #7 and the starting O to adjust to Haley’s new system.

  • Wes

    I would keep Smith if the need arises. He does at least have NFL experience.

  • Wes

    As for my last comment, What I meant was, at least he has some experience on the sidelines. lol

  • Daveb1952

    Unless Johnson is some closely guarded military secret as to his talent, he will be the first casualty. As for Smith, the only reason to keep him on the squad is on a scout team to prepare a defense for the VIcks and Newtons of the world. Other than that, he should go back and play with that other Ohio State Alum, Crouch……….

  • JohnnyV1

    Good article. I shared your concern when I saw them sign both Smith and Johnson in the offseason, follwed by the re-up of Batch and Leftwich. Only thing I can think of is how many times Leftwich has been injured the last few years, rendering him useless. Batch is getting brittle also. While they have 5 bodies, it’s really like 4 (maybe 3-1/2) when you factor in probable injuries and talent level of the two new guys.

  • NW86

    Good discussion. I’ve been leaning toward Smith simply because he’s a former early-round draft pick and I knew his name prior to this season, unlike Johnson. You bring up a good point about Johnson’s practice squad eligibility though. It may be better to keep him for camp, put him on the PS, and have a full year to watch him develop. Then the Steelers could decide if he’s good enough to be #3 in 2013 when Batch is gone, or if they need to use a mid-round draft pick on a QB.

  • Ahmad

    Seeing as we’re installing a new offense, keep 3 QB’s on the camp roster. The more QB’s we have, the less reps Ben gets.

  • Steel Hurtin

    Dave, what was the chance of Haley wanting to bringing Tyler Palko in? I am glad that didn’t happen!!!

    What about Dixon, if Leftwich or Batch were to get hurt.. I know with the new offense, that would be a long shot… That being said i would rather the limited game experience of Troy Smith compared to Johnson.

    Hopefully we wont have to see any of these other QB’s at any point this regular season.

  • SteelerDave

    Kind of a sad discussion really. Batch is one heck of a human being and community member but is old, not mobile, can easily be hurt. Leftwich cannot stay healthy. Smith is barely hanging onto an NFL career. Johnson lacks the ability to ever start in the NFL. Dixon’s style simply did not fit and he is gone. We need to begin grooming somebody no later than next season’s draft.

  • Jprankster2005

    Troy Smith if it’s him or Johnson

  • stan

    Troy Smith has actually been okay in the NFL. His passer rating isn’t all that different from Batch or Leftwich. When you combine his running ability and lack of injuries (damn that appendicitis) he might even be more valuable than either guy. If it were me I’d choose one of Batch or Leftwich, cut the other, keep Smith as #3, and put Johnson on the practice squad.

  • Jprankster2005

    You know I love Batch, He has came in and filled in as backup alot and Leftwich always get’s hurt…… With that I say we gotta keep Smith he has experince and has not done all that bad…. I sure would like to see Batch retire and not keep coming back every yr…. But then again I say look at all the money Leftwich has made and hasn’t done a thing……. I would like to see Smith be one of the three on the roster…… I would say cut Batch and give Leftwich onee more chance to not get hurt and have Smith be the 3rd backup……And maybe Smith can be the future Batch and stay around for years and come in when he needs to and do a good job…… We need some youth and I would like to see my fellow Buckeye make the team….

  • Jprankster2005

    Would it be out of the question to give the Browns a 7th rounder for McCoy it’s youth and hell maybe a really good backup if given some time…… Or would it be to awkard because of what happened last yr. lol

  • Jprankster2005

    Palko is the worst QB in the NFL……. Don’t think that will ever happen…..

  • LucasY59

    pretty sure Crouch went to Nebraska

  • LucasY59

    Dixon made it pretty clear he doesnt want to be a Steeler

  • Kingmagyar

    Jerrod Johnson stats in college 6′ 5″ 251lbs


    Comp. Att. Yards TDs INTs passer rating
    2 7 28.6% 50 2 0 182.9

    194 326 59.5% 2435 21 10 137.4


    296 497 59.6% 3579 30 8 136.7


    158 279 56.6% 1947 14 9 125.4

  • I’ve been wondering about McCoy for some time. My impression is he’s a younger and more durable version of Batch (as long as he doesn’t try to scramble in practice against Deebo)–a solid player without a rocket arm or extreme mobility but football savvy, who has good accuracy,and who can win games–but who did not have the supporting cast in Cleveland or a defense to bail him out. In black & gold, I think we’d be very satisfied with his performances…especially given the new preference for protecting QBs and asking them to play smart.

  • Fish

    Keep Charlie until the wheels fall off. Does anyone have an opinion on when the Steelers should actually try to draft the repacement for Ben?????

  • Jprankster2005

    I would say in about 2 or 3 yrs. for an actual replacement…… but it wouldn’t hurt to get a late 3rd rounder or 4th rounder next yr…….

  • Jprankster2005

    I agree I think they should take a chance on him, A 7th rounder would do it…. And he doesn’t cost much…..