The Pittsburgh Steelers were intrigued by Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy not because he was a quarterback, nor because he was looking to transition to wide receiver at the professional level, but because they viewed him as a player that was intelligent enough, and talented enough, to be able to do a bit of both.
They signed him as an undrafted free agent, where they worked him at both quarterback and wide receiver throughout the offseason, though as training camp gave way to the preseason, they more or less moved him strictly to wide receiver for a period of time.
Murphy got a couple of option runs from under center in the first preseason game, but he was limited to playing wide receiver for the rest of the preseason, where he impressed enough to receiver his head coach’s attention.
Thanks to a pair of suspensions faced by key Steelers contributors early in the season, Murphy was a surprise keep on the initial 53-man roster, and he even recorded a 16-yard reception, albeit in garbage time in a loss, in the season opener.
But it was Murphy, the extra weight, who was the one to be cut in order to open up a roster spot for the return of Le’Veon Bell after the first two games of the season. Many figured that he would remain until wide receiver Martavis Bryant was set to return two games later.
But Murphy may find himself back on the 53-man roster in a day or two if things do not develop favorably on the injury front for the Steelers throughout the remainder of practice this week, and this time he would be coming up as a quarterback.
Of course, Ben Roethlisberger has been out for three weeks with an MCL injury and a bone bruise, but he has returned to practice this week in the hopes of potentially returning to play this Sunday.
In the meantime, Mike Vick, who has started the past three games, suffered a small groin tear that is going to have him down this week. If Roethlisberger is not yet set to return, then the Steelers will have just Landry Jones healthy at quarterback.
Murphy has already confirmed that he has been running the scout team at quarterback with Jones taking first-team reps. He also confirmed that he had been staying in both the wide receiver and quarterback meetings, in spite of the fact that the Steelers have listed him just at wide receiver since the final roster cuts were made.
If the Steelers were very concerned about Roethlisberger being unable to go, and uncomfortable with Murphy, then you have to figure that they would have already looked at a quarterback or two and brought them in and signed them by now, as it would not make much sense to have somebody serve as your backup having been signed late in the week prior to the next game.
Of course, if Murphy does end up being called up to serve as Jones’ backup—just take a moment to think about that, Tyler Murphy backing up Landry Jones in a meaningful game—somebody will have to be released in order to make room, and it figures to be somebody they are confident they can re-sign after the game.