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The Optimist’s Take – Drafting For Plan B At QB

While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.

No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.

With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: Should the Steelers be looking for a backup quarterback in the draft?

Over the course of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers have occasionally turned to the draft—specifically, the middle rounds—in order to look for a quarterback that they can groom into a serviceable backup quarterback in time.

Their latest foray into this endeavor came in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, when they selected Landry Jones with their natural pick in that round. But he’s far from the first one, and he may not be the last, either.

Jones, through two NFL seasons, has not shown much of anything at all. Beat writers have, in fact, even joked that his poor performances and interceptions during the late season practices served to boost the confidence of the Steelers’ no-name cornerbacks.

It was a very popular opinion to hold that the team should not have carried him on the 53-man roster in 2014. He has yet to even be active for a single game, although that is partially due to the freak occurrence of Roethlisberger actually being healthy for each of the 33 games in which Jones has been part of the team.

With Bruce Gradkowski still under contract, and seemingly a serviceable player, finding a backup quarterback is obviously not an immediate need, but nobody exactly seems comfortable with the idea of Jones being a snap away from being under center.

In other words, Jones’ likelihood of being on the roster in 2015 is probably fairly tenuous, and he’ll need to show some significant growth in his third season. The Steelers would be wise to add some more imposing competition for the third quarterback spot than they have in his first two seasons here.

Jones was a player that the team liked, but they have seen his body of work now. if the brain trust happens to find themselves in a position to draft another quarterback in the middle rounds that they have some sort of attachment to—hopefully no earlier than the fifth round—it’s certainly possible that he is selected. And who knows, perhaps, for once, he will turn into a viable backup option for once. It’s also relevant that Gradkowski is in the final year of his contract.

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