With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Bruce Gradkowski.
I mean, really. We have literally only ever seen him throw two meaningful passes in the entirety of his tenure as a Steeler over the course of the past three seasons, though, of course, he spent all of the 2015 season on injured reserve after suffering thumb and shoulder injuries that required surgery.
Obviously, the injury history only makes it all the more critical that we see a great deal from Bruce Gradkowski this if he has any aspirations of resuming his role as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger that his injury initial left in the unable hands of Mike Vick, and eventually Landry Jones.
Jones started two games, though he only played two series in the second start before he was injured. He lost his lone full game, throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble on a sack, but in the game before, he threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns against a good defense, even if that performance was aided greatly by Martavis Bryant’s individual performance.
The backup quarterback position is currently as muddled entering a season since Roethlisberger has been drafted, because we have yet to fully understand what Jones has left to show, nor what Gradkowski has left, period.
But either way, it would be an obvious benefit for Gradkowski to play well enough to deserve the title of backup quarterback through his work in the preseason, even if Jones gets the job, whether through superior performance or strategic necessity, given that the former quarterback is much older and perhaps less durable.
The Steelers believe in Jones’ knowledge of the defense, though he may not have quite the same rapport as Gradkowski. But it shouldn’t be considered out of hand that Dustin Vaughan couldn’t sneak up and take his job if he struggles, since the team is bound to keep three quarterbacks regardless.
The veteran backup re-signed with the team for a one-year, veteran-minimum contract, so there is not exactly much riding on it in terms of resources promised, nor long-term future. In Jones, however, there is a legitimate question about the long-term, but that is a topic for another installment.