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2016 South Side Questions: Where Does QB Depth Stand?

Training camp has ended, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have reverted back to taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While training camp might have seen a lot of work put into the team and the roster, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well, since training camp is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is really one that lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: What is the current state of the Steelers’ backup quarterback position?

We are now through two full preseason games, during which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has yet to take a single snap. And we have been rewarded with very little quality quarterback play as a result, courtesy of Landry Jones, Dustin Vaughan, and a brief cameo by Bruce Gradkowski.

That all begs the question—where do the Steelers currently stand when it comes to the backup quarterback position? After all, considering that Roethlisberger missed four games last season and parts of several others, it seems a pretty important question to ask.

Just last night, four of Jones’ 20 throws were intercepted, while Vaughan did little on his 13 throws, though Cobi Hamilton helped him out with a fantastic 29-yard snare. The second-year quarterback also showed rather poor pocket presence, and has taken seven sacks in less than four halves of play through two games.

Meanwhile, Gradkowski is said to have suffered a significant hamstring tear, hearing a pop in his leg after he slid for a first down during his brief playing time in the preseason opener. It is unclear when or if he will return.

How much should we take away from Jones’ four-interception night? After all, on three occasions, a wide receiver placed the burden on himself for the play, while on the fourth interception, the quarterback took a hard shot to the side as he threw after the tight end missed a block.

There were highlights outside of those turnovers, even though they will draw the headlines with little nuance to explain their context as the witch hunt regathers to try to run Jones out of town, unaware that they have no power to do so no matter how many Tweets they send.

I am not Jones’ greatest admirer by any means, but for the moment, he appears to be all they have. He seemed to show progress last season and in training camp. It’s time to see how that holds true through the last two preseason games, and whether or not Gradkowski can return.

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