In less than two weeks, we’ll be at training camp, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90 man roster roll through 14 practices and four games. There will be so much to learn, tons of things going on, so I want to lay out some of my expectations and hopes for each player before things start up and, frankly, all this speculation becomes irrelevant.
We’re going to start off with the four quarterbacks on the team’s 90 man roster.
Ben Roethlisberger – Like there’s anything we need to see from #7. I just hope Ladarius Green is able to get legitimate work in so Ben can break in that “Ferrari.” Because Green is new to the system and a vastly different type of player than Heath Miller, there’s going to be some growing pains in finding out how to fit him into the offense. The earlier Green, Ben, and Todd Haley, can start ironing things out, the better off they’ll be during the regular season.
Oh yeah, and stay healthy, Ben.
Landry Jones – Consistency. That’s the big thing Jones needs to show. In camp last season, he threw ten interceptions, or a pick once every 23.4 attempts. Have to see that number drop off this year, and in a big way. That’s how you keep building up trust. Make a profit on every snap. Take the checkdown and don’t sail those throws, like Jones has been known to do in the past. Go through your reads. Take off if you have to. Get the ball out quicker. That’s how you gain trust in the NFL.
Jones has improved, and his play in the regular season surpassed my expectations (maybe because they were so low), but we need to see that progression continue. It’s not like the moment is too big for him. One of his strongest traits is keeping a cool head, not getting too high or low. I respect that. But that tells me his mistakes are just a lack of execution.
Bruce Gradkowski – Honestly, I’m just looking for this guy to log some snaps. Last year was basically a lost cause. Starts the year on PUP, throws 38 passes in camp, gets injured against the Green Bay Packers, done for the year. I mean, I guess we know the type of guy you get with Gradkowski, but physically, I want to see if everything is still there. Hopefully he gets to air the ball out deep a couple of times. Mentally, yeah, the dude’s solid. Physically? We don’t really know for sure. Or at the least, I would like to be reassured.
Dustin Vaughan – Ah, the new kid on the block. Vaughan has a small NFL presence, he’s been on the Dallas Cowboys’ 53 man roster and the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, but it’s not like I – or anyone – really know what he’s about.
I want to see from him the same I want to see from any unknown QB. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Rise to the occasion. Make the profitable play but don’t be afraid to rip the football. Can’t see a camp of only checkdowns, especially when daily reps are going to be limited (Tajh Boyd and Tyler Murphy each threw fewer than 60 attempts last year). Even without that competition, I can’t see Vaughan getting more than 85 attempts in camp knowing there’s four fewer practices to work with.
And when he makes a bad play, a muffed snap, a throw that nosedives, a stupid pick, I want to see how he responds. Bad plays are going to happen. They’re inevitable. But he can control how he responds to it. Either he overcomes it or it eats him up. And if it’s the latter, he’s never going to last in the league. Especially playing the game’s most important position.
In short, be smart, be confident, be detailed. No bad snaps. Get the right depth on your drop. Don’t throw the ball into the third row. And rebound when those mistakes occur.