If you are among the not insignificant group of fans who believe that the smart money is the Pittsburgh Steelers turning their sights to fourth-year quarterback Zach Mettenberger for their future backup quarterback needs, I have a bit of bad news for you. Actually, I have a couple of bits of bad news for you.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette held a chat recently in which he was bombarded with a number of questions about the backup quarterback position, which has become a heightened topic this year in light of Ben Roethlisberger’s comments about considering retirement and the fact that Landry Jones is slated to become a free agent in just under a month.
One questioner asked Dulac about what the Steelers’ plans are for the backup quarterback position in a not so veiled admonition of Jones and the fact that he believes that the Steelers need to do better. This is certainly not an uncommon opinion, but it’s evidently not one those who make the decisions hold.
Dulac responded to the questioner by saying that the Steelers “don’t look at [the backup quarterback position] as a glaring need”, and that “they believe Landry Jones is better than 80 percent of the other backups in the league”.
Now, I am generally in Jones’ corner, and have been for the most part of the past two years, though I’m not sure I can get fully on board with Dulac’s comment about him being in the top fifth of backup quarterbacks in the league. Nor am I dismissing it. But I do believe that there is a fairly gross overestimation of the general quality of the backup quarterback position around the league, so it may well be true.
I find myself wondering these days what we would have been able to see from Jones during the 2015 season when Roethlisberger had to sit out four games with a knee injury. You will recall that he was not the top backup at the time, and only checked in during the second half of the third game due to injury, starting the following week.
We certainly would have gotten a much better sense of where Jones is if we were given the chance to get an extended look at him over a span of multiple games. As it is, we have generally only seen him in spot duty—and yet that is more than we saw from Bruce Gradkowski.
I’ve been kind of burying the lede here, but Dulac was later in his chat asked directly about Mettenberger, specifically asking what he believes is his biggest issue in surpassing Jones on the depth chart. Dulac’s response was simple: “talent”.
This is not the first time that we have seen a beat writer—preferably the ones who actually bother watching practice—commenting on the fact that Mettenberger just might not be very good. Jones may end up signing elsewhere and thus not being Roethlisberger’s backup, but I wouldn’t expect Mettenberger to be, either.