With the 2014 NFL Draft coming up in a bit, and having finished taking stock of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, it’s now time to look back and see how the team assembled the roster they currently have through the draft.
It would be most simple to set a dividing line at 2007, the year Mike Tomlin took over at head coach, so we will revisit the past seven drafts, encompassing 59 selections, to see how the team treated each position, and look into why that is.
As usual, we start at the top with the quarterback position. Because the position has been of such little need over the past decade, however, we will include the 2006 draft as well.
The Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger in the first round of the 2004 draft and haven’t seen the need to draft another quarterback in the first three rounds since then. Now at 32 and with two rings, three Super Bowl appearances, and most of the franchise quarterback records in his back pocket, the Steelers have been lucky to have him for the past decade.
That’s why they’ve only drafted three quarterbacks since 2004. That and the fact that they prefer to utilize the services of veterans, such as Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch, and Bruce Gradkowski, to fill the role of backup quarterback.
2006 – Omar Jacobs – 5th round (164)
Omar Jacobs, an accomplished collegiate quarterback who in 2005 was expected to compete for the Heisman Trophy as a junior before suffering a shoulder injury, skipped his senior season to declare for the draft.
The Steelers selected him in the fifth round in what in hindsight wasn’t a very good draft past the first round. He was released after training camp in his rookie year, spending time on a few practice squads before falling out of the league. He later found success in the American Indoor Football League, leading his team to a championship in 2008.
2008 – Dennis Dixon – 5th round (156)
Yet another accomplished collegiate quarterback expected to compete for a Heisman designation before injury took its course, the Steelers drafted Dennis Dixon two years after taking Jacobs in the fifth round. But unlike Jacobs, he managed to stick around for the duration of his rookie contract.
Dixon even started a few games, including a narrow overtime defeat in 2009. When Roethlisberger was suspended to start the 2010 season, Dixon won the right to start the first four games, but after an injury in the second game, he was placed on injured reserve. He’s spent the past few seasons kicking around practice squads.
2013 – Landry Jones – 4th round (115)
After saying goodbye to their backup quarterbacks, the Steelers signed Gradkowski and then drafted Landry Jones in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, the highest they’d selected a quarterback in a decade.
Jones spent his rookie season inactive as the third quarterback, but even Gradkowski saw no playing time. Jones had his moments during the preseason, but he also showed that he has a lot to work on with regards to technique. It’s unclear if he’s being counted upon to push Gradkowski for the backup role this summer, but either way it may be enough to keep the Steelers away from the position in this upcoming draft.