The calendar is quickly flipping through the month of April, and each day brings us closer and closer to the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, teams should have by and large accomplished everything that they have set out to do in terms of free agent roster building, which means that their sole focus is now preparing for the draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally been able to clear the Troy Polamalu hurdle and settle into their pre-draft roster. We have broken down the Steelers’ moves at each position in free agency in terms of re-signings, free agent additions and subtractions, cuts, and retirements, so now we begin the final process: determining draft needs.
As usual, we will start at the quarterback position, where the recent five-year contract signed by Ben Roethlisberger signals loud and clear that the Steelers are not interested in seeing him going anywhere or in trying to find his replacement in the first round.
That does not mean, however, that they will not be interested in the position at all during the draft. Obviously, they will not be seeking a starting quarterback, but adding another player to the position to compete for the backup spot in his first two seasons is a very real possibility.
The first thing that we must consider is that backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is heading into the final season of a three-year contract. During the first two years of that contract, Gradkowski has played exactly 10 snaps, seven of which were handoffs in a blowout victory.
Equally as important as the number of years left on his contract is the number of years that have passed since the year listed on his birth certificate. Gradkowski is himself already 32 years old, and will be a few months away from turning 34 at the start of the 2016 regular season.
I believe that the plan was for Landry Jones, the Steelers’ 2013 fourth-round draft pick, to be able to be ready to succeed Gradkowski as the backup to Roethlisberger, at the very least, by the end of his contract. But the third-year player, while still on the roster, has not shown much progress through two seasons.
The Steelers brought in Tajh Boyd, a late-round draft pick last year who failed to make the Jets’ roster, and told him that they would like to have some competition for the backup spot, adding that they liked him coming out, but basically were stuck with Jones for now.
The fact that they are interested in providing competition means that they could be interested in adding another player to that competition through the draft if the value matches up. The team has already looked at one quarterback Boston College’s Tyler Murphy, who figures to be a late-round possibility, or possibly a free agent signing.
If they do find somebody that they like, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the Steelers take him and bump Boyd from their offseason roster. Not that the fan base would be very happy about using another draft pick on a quarterback.