There’s a bit of an elephant in the room. People have different opinions about who that elephant will be, and when it will be determined who is the elephant. But Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner outright said that the elephant is going to have to go.
The elephant is the fourth quarterback, and after the team selected Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft yesterday, they now have four. With Ben Roethlisberger indicating that he wants to play for a few seasons yet, Landry Jones locked in as the backup (albeit on the final year of his contract) and Joshua Dobbs a fourth-round pick a year ago, there is going to be an odd man out.
“I know you can’t keep four”, Fichtner said. “But any coach is going to say ‘give me as much talent as you possibly can’, so I’m going to be excited as hell about this”. Fichtner is in his first season as the team’s offensive coordinator, but he also remains their quarterbacks coach, a post he has held since 2010 when Ken Anderson retired.
It was fittingly that season when the Steelers actually had four quarterbacks, and Fichtner talked about that in comparing it to the group they now have. They were not all on the 53-man roster at the same time, though they were all in the room together at some point.
“I can remember a day when we had Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon and Ben Roethlisberger and there’s four quarterbacks in there and they’re all pretty well-accomplished in their own rights. That was exciting and that felt great as a coach”.
The 2010 season was the year Roethlisberger was suspended for four games. Dixon was announced as the starter in the interim, but he suffered a season-ending injury in the second game, which resulted in him eventually being placed on injured reserve. Batch filled in for the remainder of Roethlisberger’s suspension, though Leftwich did get some time in the season finale as well.
The only way the Steelers carry all four quarterbacks this season is if the team is able to slide Dobbs onto the practice squad, if they would even be willing to do so. Most teams these days don’t even carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. Pittsburgh insists on it, to the chagrin of some fans.
The story of the Steelers’ 2018 quarterback room is yet to play out. We know Roethlisberger will be there. We know Rudolph will be there. I was previously confident that Jones will be there, and still lean in that direction, though Alex Kozora has made me less certain.
When the Steelers drafted Dobbs last year, they had Zach Mettenberger on the roster, and they let him go shortly after. Would they do the same to Dobbs? Will Jones and Rudolph compete for the backup job, with Jones getting cut if he loses? I don’t know, but I do know there’s an elephant in the room that needs to get out at some point this offseason.