Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has never before in his career been without a veteran backup. The day he was drafted, he had Charlie Batch to consult with, and I think most who follow here regularly know the story of the role that Batch played in his maturation.
Roethlisberger pretty much had Batch from his rookie season through the 2012 season, at which point the Steelers drafted Landry Jones, but at the same time they also brought in Bruce Gradkowski to fulfill the role of that veteran presence. Now, heading into his sixth season, Jones is that veteran presence, and it’s still something that he values, a point worth noting given the two young quarterbacks on the roster.
“He’s a guy that, obviously, can play. He can come in and get you out of a game”, Roethlisberger said of his backup yesterday after practice during his final media availability session of training camp. “He can start a game. He’s someone that I trust”.
That is not the same sort of relationship that he would be able to have with either Joshua Dobbs or Mason Rudolph, neither of whom have ever before played an NFL snap. Dobbs, a 2017 fourth-round draft pick, only dressed for the regular season finale last year when Roethlisberger rested, and Rudolph is a rookie who was drafted in the third round.
“If I ask a question he’s going to know the answer”, Roethlisberger said of Jones regarding a trait that he values in having his experience around. “‘Hey Landry, what was that coverage?’ I may be looking left and I may ask him what happened on the right side, and I trust what he’s going to tell me”.
While Roethlisberger had complimentary words for Rudolph coming out of his preseason debut last week, saying that he played well and that the moment was too big for him, it’s still too early to suggest that he would be capable of serving as the backup quarterback this season, both on and off the field.
There are still a number of people who would like to see Jones end up as the odd man out in the quarterback room this year, whether they end up trading him or simply cutting him in favor of the rookie and Dobbs, who would presumably develop as the long-term number three until Roethlisberger retires.
I wrote several months ago that I didn’t think that was going to happen, and Roethlisberger’s value of the veteran backup is one of the reasons for that. it’s also not just his preference, but rather than organization preference. You would have to go back a few decades to find the last time the Steelers entered a season with two quarterbacks behind their starter who have never thrown an NFL pass.