End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Bruce Gradkowski
Experience: 9 Years
Bruce Gradkowski certainly signed up for the premium backup quarterback position, unbeknownst to himself, when he joined the Steelers in 2013 to be Ben Roethlisberger’s backup.
I say that because Roethlisberger has an extensive injury history—and thus his backups also have more extensive playing time than one would care for. But through his first two seasons with the club, Roethlisberger has played in all 33 possible games, and only missed three snaps due to injury.
Sure, he played about seven or so snaps to close out the blowout victory against the Panthers in week three, during which he simply handed off the ball repeatedly, but all the way up through the completion of two regular seasons, Gradkowski was never tested at all, or asked to prove his work as a backup.
But he did come in for three snaps against the Baltimore Ravens late in the Steelers’ Wildcard loss when Roethlisberger was briefly knocked out with what seemed to be a head injury, and I think he quelled some fears with his three passes.
It wasn’t just the throws, of course, but the on-field scenario that he inherited. He was facing a third and 21 situation after he came in cold off the bench, and he promptly completed two passes, first for 18 yards, then for four yards on fourth and three. He fired a pretty ball to the right corner of the end zone for Martavis Bryant, who had a chance for it, but couldn’t quite position himself between the two defenders.
Of course, three passes certainly doesn’t make a body of work, and he has virtually no body of work with the Steelers outside of these three plays. But they do reaffirm the image of Gradkowski that many had when the team signed him, and after seeing him rest on the bench for two years, it gave a bit of a shot in the arm to the idea that not all hope will be lost of Roethlisberger should go down for a couple of games.
It goes without saying, however, that you never want to see your backup quarterback on the field with an intent the put the ball in the air, because it usually means that something is not going well for your team. Here’s to another 16-game regular season for Roethlisberger in 2015.