If Ben Roethlisberger is able to return this week, there’s no problem.
If he can’t, uh, Houston? You know the drill.
As implausible as it would have been to type out even a month ago, Landry Jones is likely to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting QB Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mike Tomlin left the door open in his press game press conference, but it’d be baffling to see him choose Mike Vick over Jones based on their body of work.
If Vick is deemed healthy enough to play, he’ll be the #2 – in jersey and depth chart. But hamstrings aren’t easy to overcome, especially for a quarterback whose best plays came on the move. If he is unable to go, there is no way they can keep him on the roster. They’ll either have to Ross Ventrone him or send him to injured reserve. It would leave Jones as the only QB on the roster.
Should that scenario play out, the Steelers have two options.
1. Move Tyler Murphy back to QB, elevate him to the 53 man roster, and have him serve as the backup to Jones.
There are some valid reasons to do so. Murphy played some QB throughout the spring and training camp before moving to wide receiver. He was active for the first two games of the year and caught his first NFL pass. He’s suited up and played in an NFL stadium before. That’s certainly a plus.
But being away from the position, away from the QB room, for six weeks is an eternity. It’s like going to the gym once every three months. Yeah, you’ve done it, but don’t expect six pack abs that way. You’re basically starting over each time. An undrafted rookie who hasn’t played the position in awhile almost feels like you still have one QB on the roster. Nothing is but this isn’t ideal.
2. Sign a veteran off the street.
You’re only going to be able to teach a new guy, even an experienced one, so much during the week. But there’s enough time to install your base offense. You’ll get a player with experience who understands how to watch tape and prepare as a starter.
The available options aren’t great but nothing is at this point in the season. T.J. Yates would be my selection. He’s started seven career games, all in 2011 with the Houston Texans, including two playoff games, winning one. He’s no stranger to big-moment games in uncomfortable situations. He spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons, seeing game action once, and camp with them this season before getting released at final cutdowns.
Should the team decide against him, other options include: Matt Flynn and Tyler Thigpen.
If they go this route, whoever they would sign would probably hang onto the roster for the rest of the season as the #3 QB. Releasing a veteran would only result in a 25% termination pay – not the full base salary as it is for vested veterans signed before Week One.
There is no elixir. It’s the best of a bad situation. But that’s something this team is used to.