The Steelers presented their version of The Colbert Report this week.
It wasn’t quite the same as the Comedy Central show, however.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert doesn’t pronounce his last name the same way as comedian Stephen Colbert, and what he talked about was no laughing matter.
Kevin Colbert talked about various issues facing the team in the wake of an 8-8 season that was over before New Year’s Eve. Among the things he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is that the Steelers would consider drafting a quarterback in the first round in April.
The first round might be a little early, but it’s time the Steelers draft a quarterback for the first time since taking Dennis Dixon in the fifth round in 2008. They need a better insurance policy at the position than they have now.
Charlie Batch was starting to get into a groove when he led the Steelers to a win at Baltimore. It might have been interesting to see how differently the Steelers’ game against the Chargers would have turned out the following week if they had given Batch another start and let Roethlisberger rest one more week.
However, the 38-year-old Batch has given the Steelers just about all he can, and there’s no untapped potential in 33-year-old Byron Leftwich.
The Steelers need to bring in a young quarterback who can develop and perhaps be surprisingly effective if another injury forces Roethlisberger to miss significant time.
Ideally, the Steelers shouldn’t have to think about life after Roethlisberger for a few more years. He’s 31. Tom Brady is 35 and Peyton Manning is 36. Both are MVP candidates this season.
However, Roethlisberger has been sacked 344 times since his career began in 2004. Brady has been sacked 303 times in four more seasons. Manning has been sacked 252 times in six more seasons.
Those sacks are taking a toll on Roethlisberger’s body. Only once has Roethlisberger gone an entire season without missing a game. That was 2008, the last year the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
Brady and Manning both have sat out an entire season. Brady played in just one quarter before a knee injury knocked him out of the 2008 season, and Manning missed all of 2011 with a neck injury. However, neither quarterback has missed a game in any other season.
With all the injuries he’s accumulated, does Roethlisberger have more than five years left in him?
It’s conceivable the Steelers could draft their next starting quarterback in April, although they’re probably hoping he spends a few more years as Roethlisberger’s apprentice than he did going to college.
Steve Muench of Scouts Inc., via ESPN.com, called the 2013 quarterback class “terrible” as recently as November. Nonetheless, two NFL Draft Scout mock drafts have three quarterbacks going in the top eight as of Jan. 16. It’s almost as if teams desperate for a quarterback are looking at this class with 2 a.m. beer goggles.
That might force the Steelers to take a quarterback sooner than they really want. They need a running back if they do the right thing and get rid of Rashard Mendenhall. They need a safety who can be groomed to succeed Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu. They need a linebacker if they part ways with Larry Foote or James Harrison. They need a wide receiver if Mike Wallace gets his big payday somewhere else.
One of those needs might have to wait in the early rounds if the Steelers want new blood at the backup quarterback position.
Geno Smith of West Virginia, Matt Barkley of USC and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas all could be top-10 picks.
Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Tyler Bray of Tennessee, all projected as mid-rounders two months ago, also could be taken in the first round.
Zac Dysert of Miami of Ohio, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, EJ Manuel of Florida State and Matt Scott of Arizona all could be gone by the third round.
If the Steelers insist on waiting until the fifth round or later to draft a quarterback, their best options are likely to be Colby Cameron of Louisiana Tech, Brad Sorenson of Southern Utah, Collin Klein of Kansas State, Nick Florence of Baylor and Jordan Rodgers of Vanderbilt.
Cameron doesn’t have the strongest arm, according to NFL Draft Scout. Sorenson hasn’t faced top-flight college competition. Klein and Florence both need a lot of work. Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers’ brother, but he’s no Aaron Rodgers.
Sean Renfree of Duke had been a good late-round prospect, but he was injured in the Belk Bowl and had surgery on his biggest chest muscle, according to NFL Draft Scout. He’s likely facing a six-month recovery and won’t be able to work out for any teams before the draft.
Whether the Steelers sacrifice one of their more pressing needs or roll the dice with a sleeper in the late rounds, they need a quarterback in camp who’s good enough to beat out Batch or Leftwich for a roster spot.
If not, their quarterback play might be laughable if Roethlisberger is injured again.