Entering the 2020 training camp, the Pittsburgh Steelers bring with them four quarterbacks who already have prior starting experience in the NFL. I doubt that any other team can say the same. I doubt that this is a very common occurrence that happens more than perhaps a couple of times a decade.
They have, of course, Ben Roethlisberger, entering his 17th season in the NFL, with 216 career starts under his belt. That is the ninth-most starts all-time by a quarterback in NFL history, with Philip Rivers 10 games ahead of him, and Eli Manning, now retired, 18 ahead. He will pass John Elway, however, if he starts all 16 games this year, sitting at 231 career starts.
Granted, the remaining three quarterbacks on the roster have a combined 18 starts, with 14 of them coming last season accounting for the eight career starts by Mason Rudolph and six for Devlin Hodges, both of whom never threw an NFL pass before last season. Joining them is former first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who started four games during his time with the Denver Broncos.
“I think it’s an unbelievable advantage”, new quarterbacks coach Matt Canada said of preparing a quarterback room for a season under these conditions, while speaking to reporters yesterday. “You’re coming back with the great experience we have at quarterback degree, the great experience we have with our head coach, with our offensive coordinator, with so many players. All our guys in my room have played and have great time in an actual game and starting a game”.
“So I think it’s a great advantage for us. I feel really good about where we’re at”, he went on. “The opportunities we have through this offseason, everybody’s got the same challenges. We’re all making the best of it, and we’re excited. It’ll be great to get on the field and we’re going to continue to go through the protocols and the challenges and opportunities they give us to get better, and here sooner than later, we’re gonna start playing real football and we’re gonna be ready to go when the time comes”.
While none of the Steelers’ three backups were very successful, necessarily, in their starts—technically, Rudolph did post a 5-3 record—the fact that they have that prior knowledge of going through a week of practice as a starter as part of the gameplan and being a part of putting that plan together is valuable experience that not even a preseason game can properly replicate.
Still, should the Steelers require any of the three to start a game this year, they will be expecting a higher level of play than they have previously gotten.