This may not be cause for much surprise, but it certainly doesn’t appear as though the Pittsburgh Steelers currently have much of a quarterback battle on their hands. I’m not speaking of Ben Roethlisberger, of course, who is coming off a career year; that goes without saying that his position is safe.
The battle that the front office was hoping to see comes a bit lower on the depth chart, past even Bruce Gradkowski as Roethlisberger’s veteran backup, who has mercifully not had to play more than 10 snaps thus far during his two seasons.
No, the Steelers were looking to create competition at the third quarterback spot, between third-year player Landry Jones and the first-year Tajh Boyd, drafted last season by the Jets in the sixth round before being released during the offseason and finding his was to the FXFL.
How does that seem to be going so far? Early reports are indicating that it’s not going well. Jones, whom the Steelers used a fourth-round pick on, would figure to be in a critical year regarding his future. If he can’t show signs of potential as a viable backup quarterback by his third season, then the time to move on would be near. Bringing in Boyd was a sign of that.
Perhaps the interest in Tyler Murphy and Devin Gardner was also a sign of that. After all, if the competition for the third quarterback spot proves to be so dire, then the most logical compromise, short of carrying only two quarterbacks, would be to carry a third quarterback that can actually contribute in some other capacity.
Jones, for the record, has spent all 33 of his regular season and postseason games on the 53-man roster as a game day inactive, and this is notable when considering the fact that the league has done away with the emergency quarterback rule that would allow a third quarterback to dress and enter the game even when not dressed. Now, if a team needs a third quarterback, it has to come from somebody who is on the active roster.
It’s notable, though it’s too early to know exactly why, that the Steelers claimed Gardner off waivers after bringing him in for a pre-draft visit and pushed him in with the wide receivers, but they had him working at quarterback during the last set of OTAs.
Whether or not that carries on to the next set of OTAs and into minicamp and training camp remains to be seen, or if he and perhaps Murphy end up getting work at both positions, but at the moment, Jones and Boyd are not beating down the doors to make the 53-man roster.
The fact may prove to be that the competition for the third quarterback spot is so dire this year that they will have to seek an alternative, after giving Jones enough time to show something. Whether that alternative comes in the form of a quarterback/wide receiver or in simply carrying only two quarterbacks remains to be seen, although history shows that the team greatly favors carrying three at the position.