Yesterday morning, I posited the question of whether or not Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Zach Mettenberger would actually make it with the team to training camp this year, something that he really didn’t get to experience last year in his first season with the team because they added him through the waiver wire so late in the process. He didn’t even participate in the preseason.
Mettenberger’s story ended after about eight months after the team released him yesterday just a couple of days—and the first business day—after using their fourth-round draft pick on Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
And in releasing him, they probably did him a favor. I mean that both factually and speculatively.
It was probably pretty obvious after the selection of Dobbs that the Steelers didn’t have any plans on Mettenberger making the roster again in 2017. After all, let’s remember that the team only acquired him because they suddenly became in need of a quarterback after Bruce Gradkowski suffered an injury. He was their desperation third-string guy that they acquired at the last hour.
So knowing, then, that barring a significant injury there was no realistic way for him to make the roster, cutting him loose now gives the former sixth-round pick out of LSU a better chance of catching on with the team and actually having a productive offseason, maximizing his opportunity to land in the best possible situation.
It will be interesting to see if he is claimed off waivers or not, as it wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive working off of a rookie contract for a sixth-round draft pick. There are, after all, a number of teams who were interested in getting a quarterback in the draft who failed to do so.
It’s unlikely, bordering on the absurd, that he would be considered for a starting position, but every team knows that they need more than one quarterback, and he at least has some starting experience in the league. Of course, they’re all losses, and I hasten to remind Steelers fans that his best game was against Pittsburgh, which results in a bias since that is the game you’re most familiar with.
So either way, there’s no doubt in my mind that Mettenberger getting released now—whether or not he hits the market should he clear waivers—is in his best interests, because he will now have the opportunity to get in with a team early in the offseason process and be exposed to a full training camp with the chance to play in the preseason.
I am assuming, though I don’t know for certain, that the Steelers would have at least taken this aspect into consideration when weighing his release, and this is something that they have done with veterans in the past. But it can’t be ignored that they simply needed roster spots due to the number of undrafted free agents they signed. They were over the 90-man limit and already had five quarterbacks.