The Pittsburgh Steelers have the one thing over the last eight years that most National Football League teams covet and I’m not talking about their two Super Bowl wins over that span. What the Steelers have is stability at the quarterback position and any general manager around the league as well as head coach will tell you that if you’re going to win and win a lot then you need an established quarterback.
In our on-going series here at steeleraddicts.com in which we look at the Steelers position-by-position in our ‘Roster Throwdowns,’ it’s now time to put the focus on the signal callers under center.
Ben Roethlisberger – There are only a select few teams that open the 2012 season with a two-time Super Bowl champion running the offense for them, but thankfully, that’s what the Pittsburgh Steelers have in Ben Roethlisberger. Number seven enters his ninth year in the league and at the age of 30 now, appears to have matured and seems ready for a big season despite the new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
I firmly believe Roethlisberger will have one of his finest seasons in 2012 but not necessarily from a statistical standpoint of yards, attempts and completions. Under the tutelage of Haley, I look for Roethlisberger to be more efficient with his passes as he uses his backs and tight ends and throws shorter routes to receivers. This will also allow him to get rid of the ball quicker thereby avoiding sacks and hits which eventually took its’ toll on him last season.
If you in fact see Roethlisberger’s numbers down compared to previous ‘big years,’ don’t be discouraged. Typically, Roethlisberger’s biggest numbers have come in seasons where the team did not flourish as he did.
With an improved offensive line and and hopefully a more consistent running game, things could really fall into a perfect place in 2012 for Roethlisberger.
Charlie Batch – The man with the clipboard returns to the Steelers to once again be Ben Roethlisberger’s right-hand man on the sidelines and his presence in that capacity could be even more vital with Bruce Arians no longer around.
Let’s be honest, Charlie Batch isn’t going to go out and win football games for you, but he understands what his role is on this team perhaps better than anyone. The oft-injured Batch has always seemed to be able to do just enough to keep the team winning. Let the defense dictate and run the ball just enough is typically the team mantra when he is in there and he is just fine with that.
Byron Leftwich – Speaking of ‘oft-injured,’ Leftwich returns once again looking to be the primary back up to Roethlisberger. It is very simple to see that Leftwich throws the ball better than Batch despite his long wind up, and runs the offense just as smoothly. He’s a seasoned veteran who much like Batch, can manage a game, but his arm strength does allow him to be a little more aggressive in the passing game.
The question as always for Leftwich is, can he stay healthy? If he makes it through the preseason uninjured, then the QB situation behind Roethlisberger becomes more muddled than people think.
Jerrod Johnson – Johnson enters his second year as a pro and has a lot to prove. Despite an outstanding junior season at Texas A&M where he threw for over 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns, his senior season ended in failure. Coming off of surgery on his throwing shoulder, Johnson still managed to win the QB job versus Ryan Tannehill who was the first pick of the Miami Dolphins this spring. Johnson struggled early and lost the job to Tannehill.
There is no question in my mind that the Steelers know they must get younger and healthier at the back up quarterback position which is why I think Johnson will be given every opportunity to unseat one of the veterans. He played in a pro style offense at A&M under Mike Sherman and many believe his arm strength has returned. At 6’5″ 250lbs, he has tremendous size while remaining athletic.
Analysis – I have to believe the Steelers will bring in another free agent QB or two to have a look at in camp unless they really like Johnson. History tells all Steelers’ fans that Leftwich or Batch will have a health issue in the preseason which is why I believe Johnson sticks around in some capacity.
Three Quarterbacks – Roethlisberger, Leftwich, Johnson. Let’s face it. We need to get younger here. The good news is that I don’t see anyone picking up Charlie Batch if he is left off of the roster so should something catastrophic happen, he is still available. Johnson is not the second coming of Roethlisberger by any stretch, but he provides youth which is sorely needed here.