The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Bruce Gradkowski
Experience: 10 Years
There is no other backup quarterback during Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh who managed to have an easier time of things than Bruce Gradkowski, whom the Steelers signed to a three-year contract in 2013 after turning over the quarterback room.
Much in contrast to the rest of his career, Roethlisberger actually managed to stay healthy during Gradkowski’s first two seasons with the team, playing every single snap of the 2013 season, and playing all but 10 snaps during the 2014 season, seven of which only came due to the fact that the team was polishing off a blowout victory in the fourth quarter.
The one year during his tenure in which the Steelers needed him, he became unavailable after suffering multiple injuries during the preseason and landing himself on the injured reserve list, with a couple of surgeries to go along with it.
Gradkowski had already been experiencing some shoulder weakness during the summer and began training camp on the PUP list, only to suffer a thumb injury and a reaggravation of his shoulder after trying to fall on a botched snap from an inexperienced center in a meaningless game.
That injury forced the Steelers to scramble to find another quarterback to serve as Roethlisberger’s backup, with the team unconvinced about Landry Jones’ ability to fulfill that role. I think that the readers of this site should be well aware of how that experiment turned out, which helped lead Jones to taking over the backup role for most of the rest of the regular season.
One wonders what the future holds for Gradkowski. An 11-year veteran, with that year on injured reserve counting as his 11th, he has recently turned 33 and has minimal tape in recent years from which he can pitch to other teams that he will be a valuable backup.
The Steelers have not ruled out bringing him back in to compete with Jones for the backup quarterback spot, but that is certainly not a possibility that he can cling to—nor can the Steelers. It is not yet known whether or not Gradkowski has recovered from his surgeries, let alone whether or not his shoulder is in any sort of throwing strength, which was in question before he suffered the preseason injury.