Should The Steelers Go After QB Josh McCown?

I know I’m breaking a Cardinal Sin here with the dreaded “should the Steelers go after ‘X’?” the day after a dude gets released. So please be gentle, The Internet.

But Josh McCown makes a ton of sense as a short-term, backup option if Landry Jones explores greener pastures.

The Cleveland Browns released the 37 year old McCown yesterday in a bit of a roster dump, getting rid of Tramon Williams, too. The move was expected. McCown has zero benefit to the rebuilding Browns – he’s at the end of his career for a franchise (still) seemingly at the beginning. They’re moving on with whatever is left of RG3, Cody Kessler, and presumably, a new face added this offseason.

At his age, it’s hard to envision any team letting McCown compete for a starting gig. He has no long-term value to a team, not even in any hypothetical, and his injury history makes it difficult to think he can get through an entire 16 game season unscathed.

But as a backup? That he can do and do well. He’s still apparently interested in playing football, according to his agent, who put out a short platitude after being cut. From

“We appreciate the Browns giving Josh a chance to catch on with another team,” his agent Mike McCartney told “Josh plans to continue his playing career.”

Pittsburgh, of course, has a level of familiarity with him. Believe it or not, he’s only made one appearance in his career, last season, coming in relief of Cody Kessler. But he’s someone they’ve had to prepare for almost every meeting because of the wacky carousel of quarterbacks Cleveland has gone through.

I know it’s generally lip service but here’s what Mike Tomlin had to say on McCown earlier this year.

“Josh McCown is a savvy veteran, a guy that has been around, a guy we’ve been exposed to in the past. He’s a guy that I am sure is a quick study and capable of stepping into less than ideal circumstances or on short notice, or on a limited number of snaps.” 

That checks all the boxes for a backup QB. A veteran who is capable and experienced in spot starting and coming off the bench cold, as he did against the Steelers. He knows how to prepare, he has the mindset required to go from Clark Kent to Superman in an instant.

It doesn’t preclude the team from drafting a QB either. They serve different roles. A guy like McCown as the immediate Plan B, a rookie a potential Plan A three years from now.

He’s a well-traveled player, the definition of a journeyman, who is used to coming into a new city, picking up a playbook, and being asked to execute it. His stops include:

Arizona Cardinals
Detroit Lions
Oakland Raiders
Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns

McCown tweeted out a then-viral photo to visualize all the places he’s been…and then some.

The Steelers seem open to bringing back Landry Jones. But in the same breath, Art Rooney II has acknowledged he’s someone who is going to test the market. There’s no guarantee he returns; any chance to compete for a starting gig, and the starving-artist position that is quarterback, there are always teams desperate, Jones will likely bolt for that opportunity.

Pittsburgh can’t fill that with *just* a rookie. It will mean bringing in another veteran. There are plenty to choose from – we mentioned Shaun Hill on Monday – but McCown might still be the most talented one on the market. At least, of the ones the Steelers could reasonably sign for cheap in that true backup role. The injury history is concerning but in a backup role, it’s mitigated.

No one is asking him to start eight games; if that would ever have to happen, the season is over no matter who the backup is. But he’s quite capable of winning a spot start or two. And that’s what the role demands.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Steelers12


  • 20Stoney

    Everyone has their own opinions. Speaking for myself, I have always liked having an older, experienced backup, who has been around. Those are the guys who can come in and not get rattled, and win you a game or 2. McCown has looked pretty decent playing for a terrible football team. It would be interesting to see what he could do with a good line, and good back and receivers.

  • Spencer Krick


  • RickM

    No problem at all with the suggestion. He’d have a much better O-line and receiving group. Landry has benefitted from that during his time here and accomplished little. McCown would almost certainly be a step up. Having said that I’m not sure how much arm strength he’s lost at 38.

  • Ralph Wagner

    McCown as a backup is good idea providing he isn’t another injury pron reserve.

  • T3xassteelers


  • LucasY59

    for a cheaper 1 yr deal, I would definitely say YES!

    2 reasons

    1. dont have to draft a QB this yr (when there isnt much talent and they would have to overdraft one even more than they normally need to with QBs)

    2. IF Ben does get hurt, we wouldnt be watching landry jones throw INTs (or some rookie/otherberger)

  • Harley Crockett

    No. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t

  • Spencer Krick

    lol, otherberger

  • Ken

    I’m for keeping Landry, but if we can’t I think McCown is an excellent choice.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    To me, I think you only make this move if you don’t like anyone from the current draft class. I think he would be a great backup QB, especially in a year that I think should be our year. I personally am not sold on much from the draft class as far as future starter potential in an area where we would draft. I do think he is a step up from Landry as far as giving us a chance to win, albeit probably a small step. For me, you either resign Landry, sign a vet, or bring in a draft pick. I don’t think you do more than 1. I would like to see competition for Mettenberger as I don’t want him handed the backup role, but I would like to see him earn it.

  • Alex Kozora

    But they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t want a rookie to be the #2. That’s generally not how this team is going to operate.

  • mokhkw

    Like him as a backup but….any decent backup QB on the FA market is not going to be cheap.

    Last year McCown earned $4.5 million & chances are someone will pay him over $3mil for 2017.

    That’s why the Steelers signed Mettenberger, he will be the vet backup for 2017. They’re not going shopping for another one.

  • Ray

    Yes they will. Zach Mettenberger is terrible.

  • Kelly A

    He’d be a great backup, my only hesitation with him are the injuries he’s had since 2014;

    2014 – Torn ligament in right thumb, back
    2015 – concussion, ankle, right shoulder, hand, broken Clavicle, and ribs
    2016 – left shoulder

    His fragility is a concern at this point, I’m surprised he hasn’t considered coaching. As a 38-year old QB, he’s not gonna get any healthier; thus they better be aware of his injury history before taking a chance on him.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I’d like an upgrade from Landry Jones.

  • AndyR34

    Compared to Charlie Batch his last couple of years?

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I agree for the most part. The three options I gave are:

    1. You resign Landry Jones. You do this if you truly trust he is your best option to win moving forward should your starter get hurt. In this case you do not draft a QB unless you believe he is the long term solution. Jones and Mettenberger can hold down the fort with a UDFA signing for camp.

    2. You sign a vet. You do this if you don’t resign Landry and you don’t believe that Mettenberger can be the backup. In this case again, I do not draft a QB unless you believe he is the long term solution.

    3. You draft a guy while not signing a vet or resigning Landry. You do this if you trust Mettenberger to be the backup for a year or two and you think you have Ben’s replacement.

    Now as much as I agree that the backup will probably not be a rookie, the last time we went into a season with a rookie at the #2 spot, Ben was the starter by the end and we won 15 games….(at least best my memory can recall)

  • RickM

    Yes, I was thinking of him actually. But, his injuries have been pointed out. That’s pretty relevant. An injury-prone QB backing up Ben probably makes little sense. Maybe a healthier veteran might be smarter.

  • Biggie

    I have no problem with McCown as backup for a year or two, he’s better option off the bench than L. Jones has shown to be. Jones is a failed experiment as a young qb to develop for our future starter, he is journeyman backup at best for us. He needs to go somewhere else to compete for a job, plus he has not even shown that he can be a fulltime starter to the point we could trade him off for picks at some point. McCown can be a competent backup for next year or two behind Ben and we can eventually go and find a young QB to replace Ben later.

  • Chris92021

    Yes we should. One, McCown clearly knows his role (backup QB). Two, he can still offer a few wins going into his age 38 season. Three, he will be very cheap (probably just above the league minimum). Four, he will have one of the five best offensive lines in the league blocking for him. Five, he is much better than Landry Jones or Zach Mettenberger. Yes, sign him if we can.

  • francesco

    No never. I would rather call up Tim Tebow.

  • John Pennington

    The steelers dont need a 37year old qb the team can do better than this take a page from the Pats draft qbs and find and train your own then if dont workout trade them and get a draft pick for them.

  • Alex Kozora

    I don’t see a problem with signing a vet or Landry (same thing) and drafting a QB. I mean, I’m basically never in favor of drafting a QB right now, but any rookie probably has a better future than Mettenberger.

  • Nope.

  • Douglas Andrews

    He was decent with the Browns Offensive line but with the Steelers he can be more than serviceable. I’d be okay with it if Landry isn’t coiming back.

  • AndyR34

    Yes…but then you get into comparative skill sets. I understand about the injuries, but how much of that is due to the horrible OL’s that he played behind? And offensive schemes designed for someone more mobile?

  • treeher

    I like our double bergers as #1 and #2 and let Jones go, assuming we can pick up McGown on the cheap. then high draft choice in 2018. I don’t see Ben playing more than 2 more years.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I don’t have a problem with them drafting a QB, but you do that in our situation for 2 reasons: First, you do it to have a backup to your starter. If you have that guy on the team already you move to reason number 2. Two, you do it if you believe the guy you are drafting can be an eventual starter for the team. To me, we have a few more years left with Ben, let’s fill the rest of our needs first and then see what our options are.

  • OIF3gunner

    He’s 37, that’s what we need a stable of players 35 and over.

  • OIF3gunner

    younger and healthier.

  • OIF3gunner

    He is way too old.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    I’d rather have Hoyer who is 31 (assuming he isn’t offered a starting job by another team)

  • Jeff Papiernik

    Agreed. I don’t see Mettenberger amounting to much. Vet and draft pick would probably mean he isn’t on the final roster.

  • RickM

    Some of it is the O-line, 100%. But the list is a little too long to feel some it isn’t physiological.

  • Frank

    Even if L.Jones leaves, I wouldn’t go w/ McCown. Assuming Ben comes back, Z.Mettenberger becomes the backup, & Draft a 3rd QB.

  • Frank

    Z.Mettenberger is on the team right not a FA?? If so, u’r not going to have 4 QBs IMO.

  • Steve

    Steelers have a nice healthy quarterback in Zach Mettenberger that they signed for the cheap last year. Lets give Zach the same chance we have given Landry, to see what he can do.

  • Steve

    Zach threw over 70% completion percentage against the Pats and Houston in 2015.

  • dany

    If the third option is Landry or someone equivalent to him (Mettenberger is not that yet)

  • John

    Why do we think Landry Jones will get other offers? We have seen him in a system he knows and with a quality cast of surrounding players. He doesn’t look great here and should be worse elsewhere.

  • Jeff Burton

    What about Zach Mettenberger? The Steelers should dump Jones, keep Mettenberger and Draft another developmental QB. Patrick Mahomes would be my choice and the Steelers could probably get hm in the 2nd Rd.

  • Russ Stauver

    Definitely a major upgrade to Jarvis Landry. Could probably get him for a half million over Landry. That alone is worth the price of a win or two that Landry would squander in Ben’s absence. One win is usually good for the division title for us and possibly a first round bye.

  • RickM

    Statistically, there sure isn’t much on his pro resume. I think he’ll be our #3 QB, but he’ll probably be given a chance to fight for #2 in pre-season.

  • Lambert58

    Yes, it does make a lot of sense.

  • Lambert58

    Jarvis Landry lol

  • Dshoff

    Forget qb in the draft this year. Concentrate on getting quality guys to make one or two last runs with Ben. Sign McCown and let Landry go before we find out that nobody else wanted him anyways. Seriously, who would throw starting money at him??

  • Rotten Sircus

    I really don’t see Landry being in high demand and Mettenberger has the size and should advance with a whole training camp & pre-season. I like what we have with our QB’s so I say no to McCown that’s just my opinion !!!

  • Rotten Sircus

    Do you really think Mettenberger is that bad ? He’s won some games for the Titans & almost beat us ! I’d keep Berger for his youth & size !!!

  • Alex Kozora

    Mettenberger is 0-10 in his career for the Titans.

  • Rotten Sircus

    That’s not enough experience for you ? & MCcown is how much better than that ???

  • Alex Kozora

    You said “he’s won some games for the Titans.” That’s what I was responding to.

  • Funny thing is Jarvis Landry may be a better QB option

  • Nothing sexy about this, at all. But in a year when we are contending for a Super Bowl, if Ben were to go down, we could do waaaaaaaaaay worse than Josh McCown. I like McCown better than Landry and Mettenberger at this point. He would give us a better shot at winning a couple games while Ben sits out than either of the two guys on our roster last year. Signing McCown would definitely give me some relief. Hoyer would be even better if that could be done. But if we sign McCown, I could still see the Steelers taking a QB in the mid to late rounds if only to give Mettenberger some much needed competition.

    I know guys don’t want to waste a draft pick, but I don’t think QB is a position you really want to skimp on given the fact that Ben is somewhat injury prone and winding down his career. We need to take this position seriously from here on out.

  • VaDave

    I wonder what the record for the number of different teams a player had been employed by? As for if we should signing McKown, not knowing anything of substance about Mettenberger, and if Jones is gone, sure why not?

  • mokhkw

    So why did they sign him & keep him on the roster if he truly is terrible? If Mettenberger is terrible then so is McCown because their stats and w/l records are identical.

  • Milliken Steeler

    McCown can flat out throw the rock. There is NO comparison between other burger and McCown. He is older now, but of you keep him upright, in this offense, he’d be 350 yards and 2-3 td’s a game.

    He would be an emergency bridge or one year starter if Ben left suddenly, but that guy can play regardless.

  • Reggie Cunningham

    Me too. I’ll take tyrod Taylor or the journey man…. Fitz for back up

  • Rotten Sircus

    STOP Drinking Bruh …Lol

  • Conserv_58

    This topic has more long term ramifications that what’s being said about it. Ben is talking about retiring, Landry Jones could be playing for another team, the top rated QB’s in this year’s draft would be no more than fifth or six round picks in the 2004 draft and there is the high likelyhood that if Ben does play in 2017, he won’t play in 2018. Fast forward to next year at this time and the Steelers could find themselves in a very precarious position as it relates to the QB position. We could very well see this team be what is was pre, Ben.

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  • SilverSteel

    I would freakin love to get Mahommes. He has it all…just needs polish and experience in NFL defenses.

  • SilverSteel

    Tyrod in a “slash” role would be so cool. Kordell memories…

  • SilverSteel

    How do you figure? He has great size, a rocket arm and has played a whole season in the NFL with no real team around him. He may not be near as bad as you think. I will take him for a #3 any day!

  • Michael Mosgrove

    hell no.

  • Jeff Burton

    He’s very raw but he’s got a great arm, is very mobile and is a great team guy. He can flick a 4o yard pass off his back foot. He seems to have a really good head on his shoulders, as well. He would have at least a couple years to work out the kinks. If he’s still there in the 2nd the Steelers would be fools not to take him.