For a rather long while, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the relative good fortune to call Charlie Batch their backup quarterback. As far as the position goes, he was a very solid number two at the position in terms of his performance on the field, and he also just so happened to be instrumental in nurturing a young and immature Ben Roethlisberger, both personally and professionally.
For the past three seasons, the Steelers’ backup has been a local native in Bruce Gradkowski—or at least that has been the intent going into each of the past three seasons. That the reality did not always match the intent over that span is partially what fuels the uncertainty behind the role this offseason.
Of course, Gradkowski found himself on injured reserve before the Steelers ever reached the regular season in 2015, suffering multiple injuries that required surgeries, in an offseason in which he already entered training camp with a weak throwing shoulder, beginning the process on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
In his place was the relatively disastrous tenure of Mike Vick, a former first overall selection, a former felon, and a former rumored interest back in 2009 after his release from prison. While the Steelers technically won two of his three starts, he played a very minor role, relatively, in both, and has surely played his last down of football.
The Steelers won Vick’s third start not because of Vick, but largely because of the man who replaced him after injuring his hamstring, third-year quarterback Landry Jones, who led two touchdown drives in a comeback victory.
Jones cemented his role as the backup quarterback from there on out, remaining active for the remainder of the season, and he figures to be in competition to retain his backup role heading into the final year of his rookie contract—though that is not guaranteed.
Also far from a guarantee is whether or not Gradkowski will even be a part of that competition. The 33-year-old veteran will see his three-year contract signed in 2013 run its course in about a month’s time, where he will hit the open market.
Frankly, there is no guarantee that he will have much of any suitors, barring injuries, considering that he really hasn’t put together much of a resume during his tenure with the Steelers due to health, and then due to injury.
During his first two seasons with the team, Roethlisberger missed only 10 total snaps, and only three due to injury, including the playoffs. Seven snaps came in a blowout victory that consisted, if memory serves, entirely of handoffs. He time complete two of three passes on third- and four- downs in the playoffs to convert a third-and-long situation in which he came in cold.
But that three-play series has been his only calling card over the past three years, and he is now three years older. And coming off of injuries, among them an injury to his throwing shoulder. Not many are likely to be interested, and that list may not even include the Steelers, at least not on a contract not substantially more than veteran-minimum contract after averaging about $1.65 million.