Are you ready for yet another article from ESPN about the overall quality of the quarterback? Because I just wrote about one, but they already have another one up. This time, they go back through the common draft era and rank every team by quarterbacks’ weighted career approximate value (AV) over expectation, from Pro Football Reference. And this time, the Pittsburgh Steelers fare better. While they don’t crack the top five, they do get inside the top 10.
In fact, the team ranks sixth overall in the league, with the top three teams being the Patriots, the Chargers (who drafted Drew Brees and Eli Manning), and the Colts. The Steelers help themselves by having drafted two quarterbacks who are or will be in the Hall of Fame, Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 the most recent.
“Roethlisberger’s production over expectation was not quite as overwhelming as the leaders for the first five teams”, the article reads, “but he’s also followed up by several solid contributors over the Steelers’ history. Though a Hall of Famer, Terry Bradshaw’s career AV is lower than Roethlisberger’s current total, and that’s before accounting for the different in draft selection”.
The article also notes that Neil O’Donnell and Kordell Stewart were positive contributors to the Steelers overall 110 AV above expectation. Their worst overall draft pick at the quarterback position was Terry Hanratty, the 30th-overall pick in 1969—who helped the team do so bad in Chuck Noll’s first season that they were in position to draft Bradshaw a year later.
The Patriots are the highest on the list by far, though, thanks to Tom Brady. The Chargers’ AV above expectation is only 197, in comparison to New England’s 304, which largely is accounted for by the fact that Brady was drafted in the sixth round.
I’m sure there are Steelers fans who wonder where the Steelers could have gone had O’Donnell not chosen to leave in free agency after their Super Bowl loss in 1995. He didn’t go on to have a successful career after Pittsburgh, though it wasn’t all bad. Perhaps if he had remained in a steady environment, he could have served as the field general type to help them get over the Super Bowl hump earlier than a decade later.
With Roethlisberger 38 years old and two years remaining on his contract, the Steelers are facing the ugly reality that their time with the future Hall of Famer is winding down. It’s virtually impossible to be successful in today’s game without a talented quarterback, so they know they will have to very soon be looking for a true successor.