Grooming Roethlisberger’s Successor An Unlikely Plan For Pittsburgh

It’s the elephant in the room.

And he wears #7.

Ben Roethlisberger is 34 (edit: in March). And while it may be a fun exercise to speculate on how many years he has left, one that obviously has no concrete answer, but he doesn’t have ten years left. Maybe five. Maybe a little more. Maybe a little less.

As each offseason begins, and that talks swells slightly more, there is the debate of whether it is worthwhile of taking another mid to late round quarterback in an attempt to groom as Roethlisberger’s replacement.

Generally speaking, the success rate of mid to late round quarterbacks (4th round and on) in the league is low, as outlined before by people much smarter than me. And it’s no different for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If anything, it’s worse. So let’s take a quick look back at the quarterbacks drafted in the fourth round or later by the Steelers and examine how much success they had. We’ll work from 2015 backwards.

2013. 4th Round. Landry Jones: A career record of 1-1. Three touchdowns and four interceptions. Most fans want to see him replaced already.

2008. 5th Round. Dennis Dixon: Career record of 2-1. Completion percentage under 60%. One career touchdown pass. His second win came in a game where he attempted just six passes before suffering an injury, replaced by Charlie Batch. You don’t steal a win from a quarterback who had the greatest game in NFL history.

2005. 5th Round. Omar Jacobs: Never attempted a pass in his career and did not make the roster out of camp. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in November of his rookie year.

2003. 5th Round. Brian St. Pierre. In my heart, famous for playing cleanup in the 2004 regular season finale against the Buffalo Bills. Attempted one pass that game with the Steelers. It fell incomplete. Gloriously.

2000. 5th Round. Tee Martin. Never attempted a pass with the team. Had 16 with the Oakland Raiders, completing just six and throwing an interception. I think he was the cousin of my elementary substitute teacher? Probably the most notable thing about him.

1996. 6th Round. Spence Fischer. Sounds like the name of someone on The Bachelor.  So irrelevant there isn’t even a profile on him on Pro Football Reference. In the Duke Football Hall of Heroes.

1994. 6th Round. Jim Miller. A relatively successful career, including an 11-2 record with the Chicago Bears in 2001. But not much return on investment in Pittsburgh. One career start, a 9/17 83 yard performance in a 24-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Threw two touchdowns and five interceptions in his two year Steelers’ career.

1993. 8th Round. Alex Van Pelt. Oh, the 8th round. How I miss you. He had some play in Buffalo and but never made the Steelers’ roster. Another whiff.

1992. 12th Round. Cornelius Benton. Never played a snap in the NFL. Now assumed lead in Downton Abbey. 

1984. 7th Round. Scott Campbell. Two-and-a-half years with the Steelers. Two starts, losing both. 44.3% completion rate in Pittsburgh. Started nine games with the Atlanta Falcons in 1987. Once complete only 14 passes and threw five interceptions in a game. Now making soups?

1981. 11th Round. Rick Trocano. Drafted by the Steelers but never played, spending two years with the Cleveland Browns. Career ended after that. A proud Browns’ tradition.

1977. 5th Round. Cliff Stoudt. Our last moderately successful one! A 9-7 career record with twice as many interceptions (28) as touchdowns (14) stretching the very definition of moderate and success.
Most of his playing time coming in 1983, Won eight of his first ten starts. Lost the final four, never completing more than 43% of his passes over that last quarter and only once throwing for more than 100 yards. Would never win another game in the NFL again.

I think the point has made itself. As attractive as it is to think you can groom a quarterback, the odds are incredibly slim, and you have to go back nearly 40 years to find a quarterback who won more than two games in Pittsburgh.

It’s why I subscribe to the draft theory – one of the few I have with conviction – that if you’re taking a quarterback, it’s only worth taking one early or you are better off ignoring it entirely and throwing that dart elsewhere. Say no to Ben Roethlisberger’s eventual replacement. Only his immediate replacement, whenever the time comes.

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