With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: QB Bruce Gradkowski
Stock Value: Down
If you are a 33-year-old quarterback who hasn’t played in years, your stock probably isn’t going up any time soon. If you are a 33-year-old quarterback who spent a year on injured reserve because of multiple injuries, including one to your shoulder, then your stock has to be going down, and the value of veteran Bruce Gradkowski is certainly down.
Originally signed to serve as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2013 while then-rookie Landry Jones developed into, prospectively, a suitable backup himself, Gradkowski spent his first two seasons in that backup role but only played 10 snaps, seven of them at the end of a meaningless blowout, in those two seasons, aberrations in which Roethlisberger actually stayed healthy.
From a team perspective, it is always the ideal situation when your backup quarterback pretty much never plays, but the other side of the coin there is that you never got to see Gradkowski actually manage the offense in a meaningful situation—although he did nicely convert a third-and-long in the postseason with two completions and nearly threw a touchdown on the following play.
Jones, on the other hand, got his opportunity to play last season while Roethlisberger miss four full games and parts of several others, ultimately seeing time in seven games. While there were plenty of kinks in his game, he was able to execute two fourth-quarter game-winning drives against the Cardinals and the Raiders, the highlights of his playing time.
The Steelers may possibly be at a point at which they are comfortable with Jones in the backup role, but they re-signed Gradkowski—whose three-year contract expired—to a one-year, veteran-minimum contract late in the offseason, presumably after demonstrating a relative return to health.
The veteran will compete with Jones for the backup position in training camp, but he now faces a scenario in which he is no longer the incumbent, and, in fact, the now-incumbent has actually had some tangible success running the offense, whereas Gradkowski lacks that tape.
He is also a year older and coming off an injury, even if he might maintain that he feels as healthy as ever after essentially having a year off of football. He will surely make the roster, but he may find himself more in the role of mentor/clipboard holder rather than one snap away from playing on any given Sunday.