After sitting out the first few weeks of training camp with a shoulder injury that had been lingering for much of the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has finally been activated from the PUP List, though he continues to work his way back before he becomes a full participant.
While his level of activity was limited in his first practice back in uniform, he certainly seemed to be pleased to be back out there with his teammates, and the Steelers should be awfully glad that he is back as well, given was lurks behind him in the quarterback room, and on the depth chart.
With Gradkowski sidelined, third-year quarterback Landry Jones has been given every opportunity to showcase his improvement over the past two years, even since the Steelers made him their fourth-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. I believe most commentators will assert that he has failed to do so.
While there is room for disagreement as to whether or not Jones has shown progress within his own game this training camp session, there can be little argument that he is not ready to be thrust into a backup role, as the man who is one injury away from commanding what could potentially be the most potent offense in the league.
Gradkowski himself certainly isn’t Ben Roethlisberger—if your backup is near the same level as your starter, then your starter isn’t very good, or you’re likely preparing for a changing of the guard—but he has the resume to back up the fact that he is the only fitting number two for this team at the most key position.
The veteran has had ample experience in his career coming off the bench and turning in a productive performance, or making spot starts. He has even found success against the Steelers in that capacity, his hometown team.
The Steelers have been fortunate to not need his services for any more than three snaps over the course of his first two years with the team, but it is still essential for him to be up and running, and the reality is that he has not had much of an offseason at this point.
While Gradkowski does not necessarily need a lot of prep work in order to get ready at this stage in his career, the fact that he had hardly done much of any throwing is a concern, and that means that he should get more than his fair share of reps going forward, even as they seek a resolution to the Landry Jones riddle.
That also means that Tajh Boyd is likely to receive very little reps going forward, after his reps were already limited. The fact of the matter is that he has not made the most of his rare opportunities to entitle himself to more.
This also means that Tyler Murphy is likely to stay put, for the most part, at wide receiver. It should be no surprise that all Steelers outlets, including the team’s own homepage, have perhaps not coincidentally made it a bit deal to emphasize Mike Tomlin’s praise of Murphy yesterday showing off at his new position.