Steelers 2013 Player Evaluations By Position – Quarterbacks

By Alex Kozora

A Pittsburgh Steelers player by player recap, grouped by position, reviewing the 2013 season. Starting with the quarterbacks.

Ben Roethlisberger: The numbers tell a lot of the story. Most yards and highest completion percentage since 2009. Most touchdowns since 2007. He was asked to carry even more of the load this season due to a struggling running game and a penchant for falling behind, setting a career high in attempts.

Yet again, Big Ben was magnificent and was just as worthy of the MVP award as Antonio Brown. Of course, he had his fair share of “scramble drill” plays that turned into touchdowns or momentum swinging plays.

But as I’ve raved about all season long, it’s his mobility inside the pocket that has made him so special. He feels the rush as well as anyone in the league and knows how to navigate a muddy pocket. Which is good considering the state of the offensive line the first half of the season. He’s capable of throwing from an unsound base. Two touchdowns that illustrate that. The first to Jerricho Cotchery against the Minnesota Vikings and the other a strike to Emmanuel Sanders against the Baltimore Ravens.

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His short to medium throws have plenty of velocity on them. However, he throws an average deep ball and receivers constantly have to fight to come back to them. On a team that still had speed, it was disappointing.

Ben’s athletic and physical traits are well discussed but his mental side has grown considerably in recent years. Along with an increase in no huddle/muddle huddle,  the use of “packaged” plays Ben was given where the QB has a run/pass option and makes the call at the line was shown this season. Many smoke screens were thrown with that design. It was also used in crunch time situations (see the TD and failed 2 point conversion against Baltimore at the end of the game). Ben has to read the front and make a decision. Not many quarterbacks get that type of freedom.

Overall, Ben made good decisions at the line. Checking out of eight man fronts and recognizing late safety rotations, making proper adjustments and reads. He got a little careless later in the year as the run game picked up and may have trusted it a little too much. Multiple instances against the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland  Browns where it would have been smart to air it out against a stacked box. All nitpicking though.

Off the field, he showed himself to be a leader and without question one of the reasons the team had the strong second half it did. Despite not winning team MVP, he’s a respected veteran and leader.

Ben will get a contract extension within the next year. It’s not certain how much money he will make, but go ahead and write him a blank check. He’s worth it.

Bruce Gradkowksi: Signed as insurance in the offseason, Gradkowski did not see a single snap in 2013. But there was comfort knowing he was Plan B should Ben succumb to an injury. With just a 1.83 million cap hit in 2014, it’s a role he will resume.

Landry Jones: The rookie out of Oklahoma spent the entire season inactive. I got my best look at him in the preseason against the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers. It was an ugly game against Washington but he improved versus Carolina. Seeing progression is obviously huge in any young player. Still, his footwork needs a lot cleaned up coming from a shotgun system. Perfect example on a three step drop against the Panthers. Second step is too big and the drop is awkward.

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The preseason will tell you only so much but I do not have the feeling he is an eventual starter in the league.

Next Up: Running Backs

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • steeltown

    Landry Jones could become the eventual #2 its way too early to tell. For now we have an experienced backup in Gradkowski and a young guy with upside as #3, that is the perfect situation to have. Who knows maybe by 2015 Jones shows enough that he can be trusted as the #2 and we can save the cap on Gradkowski, maybe not, its never an exact science especially the QB position.

  • RW

    Good points. I’m not sure that he’ll ever become a starter in this league (I would hope the organization would draft an eventual starter before Ben is completely done), but he should be a solid #2 for a while.

  • steeltown

    Agreed.. and there is no reason to draft that guy now or even soon. I would think (barring any serious major injury to Ben) that maybe they spend a high draft pick sometime after 2016, but not any earlier than that IMO

  • Ken

    Call me insane but I felt much better about backup situation when C. Batch was here. Gradkowski has experience but he is like 5 and 14 as a starter. That’s not good! The Bengals cut him, that’s not good either. I think we should at least provide competition for backup.

  • Virdin Barzey

    I would take him any day over Leftowitch any day. Need I remind you that Batch was our 3rd string. If not for injury we probably wouldn’t have seen batch these last few years.

  • Ken

    I agree not a Leftwitch fan either, the pecking order was always back and forth between the two. Gradowski just has a horrible track record.

  • Steve

    Leftwich was a very good QB but could not stay healthy. Every time we needed him, he was hurt, like a few other people on the team. He had a cannon for an arm… Batch did a Great job in Baltimore last year, but he was getting up in age. He also was a leader on the sidelines and in the clubhouse.

  • Brendon Glad

    I thought he was about as bad as ive ever seen him up to about halftime of the second ravens game…then about as good as ive ever seen him after that. I have no idea why.

  • Brian Tollini

    5-14 as a starter but look at the quality of teams he played on.

  • Ken

    He had a cannon alright, which was great on 30 yard passes, but he used the same cannon on a 5 yard swing pass, we had players who lost limbs..

  • Luke Shabro

    I like Gradkowski but he is what he is. If Ben were to go down if you’re lucky Gradkowski will get you to .500. With the way the defense was playing if Gradkowski played the full season we would’ve been 5-11

  • CrazyTerry

    Batch is a savvier QB than Leftwich. The difference between Batch and Leftwich Ravens games were night and day. Batch had a much better command of the huddle, had a quickness in his release and moves belying his age. Batch is also mentally very alert during plays. Batch does all this with so little reps.

  • RMSteeler

    Ben seems to have lost deep ball strength and accuracy since 2011. Maybe that rotator cuff injury out of nowhere last year? No Wallace this year, but still many underthrown deep balls. Would help if he could see separation earlier on deep one on one routes or throw more often while DB still has back to the ball and throw earlier so receiver can adjust and at least get PI calls more often. Just don’t throw deep into double coverage until you get that tall, athletic receiver.

  • Aric Brown

    Ben has never been terrible or outstanding with his deep ball accuracy… but I saw quite a few overthrows on deep balls as well

  • Aric Brown

    I think thats when the lightbulb turned on and he realized he was starting to get some more help with Bell, Heath, and the emergence of Antonio Brown as a potential top 3 WR (definite top 7)

  • Aric Brown

    I love having Gradkowski as insurance… Hes the type of guy that steps in the game and it instantly becomes his team…. great confidence which is a HUGE quality for a backup QB to have

  • Steve

    AWWW common, there BIG boys now. Danny Marino had the same type of Cannon Arm, but he didn’t have the windup that Byrun had.

  • Steve

    Bell was not around until 2013. It was run by commity in 12.

  • Steve

    Ben has lost some of his long ball strength in 2013.

  • David Edward

    Ben rebounded after a horrible start to have a nice season. Some say it was his best..it wasn’t, but once they adopted the no-huddle as a staple of the O, Ben looked much, much better…as did the OL. As we’ve heard mentioned, the no huddle needs to be the focal point of the O…Ben has the smarts, experience, and savvy to be very successful in it.

    My pet peeve is Tomlin/Ben’s stubbornness with the backup QB. Garbage time is the ideal time to get your backup some live reps and save some wear-and-tear on your 31 yo. oft sacked QB. Granted, there weren’t many of those ops this season, but there were certainly a few. I don’t buy the arguments Ben and Tomlin made for him staying in, and I have yet to hear anyone give an intelligent reason for not putting Gradkowski in during garbage time.

    Landry Jones may be able to develop into a #2, but for the moment it doesn’t look like the best use of their 4th round pick.

  • Brendon Glad

    Sounds logical enough to me. The oline started playing better around that time too so maybe the relieving of bicknell from most duties had a part in it too.
    He seemed to be WAY more skittish than usual up to around that time.

  • vinnie12

    I totally disagree with the description of Bens arm strength! He has a cannon!
    The small receivers force him to trow the ball differently on long pass attempts because of the small stature of the receivers.