While there certainly isn’t a traditional quarterback controversy going on right now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, there certainly seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that the team now has four quarterbacks on their offseason roster with two of them being drafted over the course of the last two years.
During a Friday morning interview on 93.7 The Fan, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger openly questioned the team’s decision to draft quarterback Mason Rudolph last weekend and especially being as they had drafted quarterback Joshua Dobbs in 2017. On top of that, Roethlisberger said he was surprised that Rudolph was drafted as early as he was being as he had let the Steelers know immediately after the 2017 season had ended that he intends on playing at least three more seasons and maybe even as long as five more.
One day prior to Roethlisberger’s interview, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was interviewed by the same radio station and same personalities that Roethlisberger was on with Friday. He was again asked to defend his decision to draft Rudolph in the third-round this year even though Roethlisberger had a previously let the organization know that he hopes to play three to five more seasons.
“Well, you know what, I hope that and we hope that Ben does play for five years and we hope he plays at a high level for five years and if he does then we’re going to have a greater chance of winning a Super Bowl,” Colbert said on Thursday. “And that’s all great and, you know, it’s our job to make sure that in the event whenever Ben decides his career is over, that we have the next plan in place. And when you go into a draft, you always got to weigh future help versus current help and we think we did that with the first two picks. We thought about taking a quarterback with the second pick because we thought he was that good, but we decided that the receiver was more important at that point.”
Colbert then proceeded to continue to defend his stance that Rudolph was essentially too good to pass up in the third-round due to how high the organization had him rated ahead of the draft.
“We had Mason Rudolph rated as one of the top quarterbacks and to protect this franchise going forward, we wanted to have that guy in place,” Colbert said. “You know, when we go all the way back to when Ben’s career started, we weren’t planning on him playing that rookie year and unfortunately Tommy Maddox suffered a season-ending injury, and really a career-ending injury, when he hurt his elbow. And fortunately we had Ben on the team and you know, great things have happened since then. So, not saying that Mason Rudolph will be Ben Roethlisberger, whoever he turns out to be, but we do think he can be a winning starting quarterback somewhere in the future. And I think when you have that plan in place, it’s an easier transition than when if you don’t have that plan in place and something would happen, I think we don’t do our due diligence as an organization.”
Now that the Steelers have drafted Rudolph, they obviously have four quarterback on their roster with the other two behind Roethlisberer currently being Landry Jones and Dobbs, who the team selected in the fourth-round just over a year ago. On Thursday, Colbert was asked about the current status of Dobbs with the team now that Rudolph has been added via the draft. Colbert not only addressed Dobbs’ current situation, but talked about Jones some as well.
“Josh, and again, when we did this, this was nothing against Joshua Dobbs or Landry Jones,” Colbert said. “Landry’s proven to be a quality backup that, you know, he hasn’t had his chance to prove himself as a starter because Ben hasn’t been out that long. And Joshua made great strides last year from the time we drafted him through the end of training camp and our last preseason game. We liked his progress, but again, anytime you have an opportunity to add a guy of quality at any position and you pass on them, you’re not doing your job.”
Colbert continued talking about the team now having four quarterbacks moving forward and how Dobbs has yet to show that he’s starter material.
“And quite honestly, now we got four quarterbacks and at that position you can never have enough,” Colbert said. “Again, one injury can change everything. And Joshua and Landry and Mason, there’ll be a nice competition as we go through the spring and training camp and we’ll see what shakes out. Josh is not disappointing by any stretch, but did he prove that he can be a potential starting quarterback? Not yet, so that’s another reason you add another guy in the mix.”
In case you haven’t figured out by now, the Steelers usually keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster and Colbert all but guaranteed that will be the case once again in 2018.
“We want to have three [quarterbacks],” Colbert said. “We always want to have that third guy be a young guy that’s practice squad eligible. You know, there’s been times in the past when we’ve had, you know, when Ben was younger, we added the two veteran guys, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch and then as Ben became the older player, we tried to get a guy like Landry, or like Joshua, that could go back and forth on a practice squad if necessary. But we always like to have three on the team and we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have three of them active.”
What’s interesting about all this four quarterback talk right now is that when the Steelers selected Roethlisberger in the first-round of the 2004 NFL Draft, the team already had three other quarterbacks under contract in Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch and Brian St. Pierre, who by the way, was selected in the fifth-round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Roethlisberger was originally supposed to be the Steelers No. 3 quarterback in 2004 after he was drafted but thanks to a season-ending knee injury suffered by Batch during training camp, the first-round draft pick started his rookie season as Maddox’s backup. The Steelers even decided to open the 2004 regular season with just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster as St. Pierre was waived and signed to the practice squad.
These kinds of things magically find a way to work themselves out in the long run and I have a feeling that will be the case come September. In the meantime, however, it will be fun to watch the Steelers four-quarterback saga continue on throughout the rest of the offseason.