There was a lot of discussion leading up to the final cut down date as to whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers would keep just two quarterbacks this year on the 53 man roster as opposed to the normal number of three that they have for so many years in the past.
Within that discussion was another one that revolved around if they did decide to keep three, if the third would be veteran Charlie Batch or upstart youngster Jerrod Johnson, even if it meant carrying just two on the 53 and Johnson on the practice squad.
All four of the Steelers quarterbacks played well during the preseason and they even led the league in worthless preseason stats such as quarterback rating and completion percentage. In the end, the decision was made to go with the normal three with Batch being retained for another season as the third quarterback.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday during his press conference what the benefit was of having two experienced backup quarterbacks on the roster as opposed to just one and a young developmental arm such as Johnson.
“The reality is that when you talk about backup quarterbacks you need to find comfort in that they’re capable of coming in and playing winning football,” said Tomlin. “In those two guys, we know that we have just that. We’ve won with them in the recent past, they’ve displayed in this preseason that they’re capable of being reasons why we win. The solutions or the answers to the questions, just lie in that.”
Tomlin continued on to say how the history of the Steelers might have also weighed into his decision to keep three as opposed to just two as well.
“There’s always some discussion in today’s NFL whether you go with two or three,” the head coach said. “I always find comfort in the three. When I walk up and down these hallways and look at pictures of the 70’s Steelers that were 45-man rosters. I saw three quarterbacks in those pictures. So, that’s a little bit of a history lesson for me. When you’ve got three that are capable of being reasons why you win in general, I’m going to lean on going with that three.”
“Obviously, some things that are going on at other positions oftentimes weigh in that when you’re putting together a 53-man roster, but just in general, we value and respect that quarterback position, particularly, those that can be reasons why we win.”
While the reasons that Tomlin gave are certainly good enough, it doesn\’t hurt to have two capable back ups in case of injury. While starter Ben Roethlisberger appears to be starting the season in great health, his style of play, which he claimed recently will not change despite the addition new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, is one that lends itself to him getting nicked up at various times throughout the season.
When you add in the fact that this is the first time in three years that back up Byron Leftwich has made it out of the preseason without getting injured, you can see why keeping a veteran around like Batch, as opposed to an unknown like Johnson, makes perfectly good sense. In addition, it is not like Batch is taking up a chunk of cap room either, as he signed another veteran one-year qualifying contract this offseason that came with a reduced salary cap charge.
All three of the quarterbacks have been together for a while now and work well together on the sidelines in addition. Having experienced starters like Leftwich and Batch on the sidelines is like having two additional quarterback coaches that are adept at communicating with Roethlisberger.
As I pointed out recently, the Steelers also still need 7 inactive players every week on gameday and Batch figures to be 1 of those 7 every week. He can also run the scout team during practices better than Johnson would have been able to do in addition.
The decision to keep three, and more importantly Batch as the third, was the correct one and applaud it.
Johnson was an undrafted free agent from 2011 that has failed to catch on anywhere. There are plenty of those types a players that are available late every year in the draft as well as afterwards. The Steelers didn\’t lose anything by cutting him loose as there is still plenty of time before they have to worry about developing a successor to Roethlisberger, who is only 30 years of age and entering his prime.