Only 14 more days to go until the Pittsburgh Steelers report to Latrobe for training camp, so today we continue on with our look at the training camp roster battles with our look at the quarterback position.
Quarterback roster battles? Really? The Steelers, as expected, resigned unrestricted veterans Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch to one-year qualifying contracts late in the free agency period. Both come with a reduced salary cap hit with those kind of contracts. Although former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith was signed early in the offseason, he never was really a threat to make it to training camp once Leftwich and Batch were resigned, and was recently waived. Former Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson was also signed during the offseason and he will be the number quarterback the Steelers take to camp with them now that Smith has been jettisoned.
Being as there really aren\’t any roster battles here at this position, we will have a look at all three of the signal callers currently behind Ben Roethlisberger on the roster.
Byron Leftwich – Leftwich, who figures to be the backup to Roethlisberger this year, has the chore of proving he can make through a preseason healthy, something that he has been unable to do the past two preseasons. His roster battle comes in the form of his own body. He still possesses a strong arm and should have no problems picking up the new offense being installed by Todd Haley. He is a quality guy to have in the locker room and just needs to make sure he doesn\’t trip over anything while he is in there. In all seriousness though, he is capable to come in and get the job done on a short term basis. Hopefully we don\’t have to find that out though.
Charlie Batch – Batch served as the backup to Roethlisberger last year after Leftwich was lost in the preseason as he easily beat out the underachieving Dennis Dixon. Career wise Batch is 5-2 as a starter in Pittsburgh since arriving in 2003. He also has a career 57.7% completion ratio with the black and gold with a respectable 7.7 yards per attempt stat to boot. Batch no longer has the arm strength to deliver the deep ball and we saw that first hand in his late season start last year against the St. Louis Rams. At 37 years of age he also is not going to run away from anyone, but he did show some elusiveness on two plays in that game against the Rams. His avoidance of two sacks were very Roethlisberger-like, but the reality of it is that it was just luck. What Batch lacks in arm strength and mobility he tries to offset with his extreme knowledge of the game. That knowledge can come in handy when on the sideline with the other two quarterbacks. He is a great mentor for the young players to have in the locker room and the Steelers could do much worse for a number three quarterback, especially when you factor in that he doesn\’t cost very much.
Jerrod Johnson – Following his junior season at A&M, Johnson was considered as a Heisman hopeful, but a shoulder problem coupled with poor mechanics led to him being benched the second part of his senior season in favor of Ryan Tannehill. Johnson failed to impress at the 2011 NFL combine and he went undrafted as a result. He landed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent, but did not stick very long. He reportedly has since been working to improve his arm strength and accuracy under another the guidance of another former A&M quarterback back home in Texas, but he will suffer greatly from the lack of snaps that he will likely receive once training camp gets underway. Johnson figures to get late work in the Steelers preseason games this year and must show the organization during that limited playing time that he is worthy enough to keep as a developmental quarterback on the practice squad this season.
In summation the Steelers have three veteran quarterbacks on their roster once again. If Leftwich can prove that he can remain healthy, he gives the Steelers offense at least a fighting chance for a short period of time should Roethlisberger miss any time due to injuries. Asking Leftwich to lead the Steelers to their seventh Lombardi is a bit much to ask for as this team realistically would suffer the more games that Leftwich has to carry the load. He is a spot starter plain and simple. Batch pretty much is what he is and has been, an emergency quarterback. The jury is out on Johnson right now as far as long-term development goes. We will get a better idea of what he has to offer during the preseason.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Safeties
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Nose Tackles