Five games. 18 practices. That’s the allotted time the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers will have to prove themselves before playing in a meaningful game. The preseason is unique in the sense that it’s the only time when the scoreboard doesn’t matter. 0-5, 5-0, it really isn’t going to matter. It’s the time for self-evaluation, seeing how players progress. And that’s what we’ll do here. For each player on the 90 man roster, we’ll give a short overview of what we’re looking for from them entering camp. In order, beginning with the quarterbacks.
Ben Roethlisberger: Stay healthy. But you knew I was going to say that. There’s nothing to learn, gather from #7. We’re long past that point of his career. The only measure of success is being available on Thursday night in Foxboro.
Bruce Gradkowski: Like Ben, the veteran doesn’t have a lot to prove. He’s not moving up or down the depth chart. Enjoy the reps you get in the preseason. Hopefully it’s the most action you’ll see.
Landry Jones: Steelers’ fans whipping boy. But we’re looking for positives, not additional criticism. Like everyone else, Jones deserves a fair shake. The third-year quarterback doesn’t have a bad arm. It’s not great by any means but there were throws that had plenty of zip on them. I’d isolate his issues around two areas.
1. Consistently making the easy throws: There were some dubious misses last year. I remember two checkdowns, overthrowing Dri Archer in practice and another throw behind a running back in game action, that you just can’t miss at that level. Completing a 10 year out from the far hash is impressive, but if you can’t be accurate on the “gimmie” throws, coaches won’t trust you.
2. Internal clock: It has to be sped up. Vividly remember twice last year coaches blowing the whistle to stop a play because Jones wouldn’t get rid of the football. That should never happen in a practice setting where defenders can’t touch you. That carries over to the game, getting the ball out within a hitch of your initial drop.
Essentially, need to see an efficient quarterback, not a great one. Baby steps.
Tajh Boyd: Almost have to treat him as a rookie. Limited tape to go off of and I’m not capable of going back to watching preseason action last year with the New York Jets. Boyd is an athlete, we’re all aware of that. But can he make every throw required? He played in a QB-friendly system with a great supporting cast. Is he capable of throwing the flag route? Or the out from the far hash?
There are even more minute details. Never fumble the exchange from center or on a handoff. Reach the top of your drops quickly. Don’t turn it over. All the little things you look for in evaluating a quarterback from scratch. Some of that is hard to see during practice and easier when watching tape.
For the record, I’ll include Devin Gardner and Tyler Murphy with the receivers.