Ask any Pittsburgh Steelers fan now and he’ll tell you that the offseason began way too early for their team, which even according to team president Art Rooney II should have been in the playoffs.
If you asked that same fan at the Bye Week for their mock draft, however, they might have already had written up as the Steelers faced a seemingly unthinkable winless September to start the year.
There’s always somebody ready to start talking about the offseason, no matter how early on it is in the process. And in the middle of January, it’s still quite early to start talking about the draft—not that there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a pre-free agency, pre-salary cap purging look at the Steelers’ draft needs, position by position.
We start with a nice and easy one: quarterback. First, a quick look at what they have to work with:
Ben Roethlisberger: A bona fide franchise quarterback. He’s led the team to multiple Super Bowls. He began to undergo a transition in the second half of the season by being more proactive in his own protection with quicker throws and more check downs. Roethlisberger should still have several years left; there’s no need to start looking for his successor any time soon.
Bruce Gradkowski: The heir apparent to Charlie Batch. Unlike just about every other season of Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers didn’t have to call on the backup to play a single snap, let alone several games, as he stayed healthy throughout the season. Gradkowski has proven to be a solid backup for several teams over the years, however, so the Steelers more likely than not won’t be looking for an upgrade.
Landry Jones: The developmental quarterback that the Steelers have every so often. Most people are not happy that he’s on the roster because the team traded a third-round pick for a fourth-round pick to draft a player that they likely could have drafted with the fourth-round pick they used on Jones.
The question—which the Steelers don’t have the answer to—is whether or not there’s enough in Jones to develop. If they can’t even project him as a competent eventual backup, then there’s no reason to delay the inevitable. Jones did not look the part at all as a rookie.
Draft Strategy: More likely than not, the Steelers will be shying away from the quarterback position in this draft. There’s no need whatsoever for a starter with Roethlisberger in place and an assurance from the team owner that he will retire in Pittsburgh. Gradkowski is the solid veteran backup.
The only question is whether or not they fall in love with a mid-late-round prospect that they think has more potential than Jones. With many other needs, however, this is pretty unlikely.