Several years ago, in a poll of NFL coaches and general managers, the Sporting News voted the Steelers as having the best stable of quarterbacks in the league.
That's because Charlie Batch, who has started 52 NFL games, has been a backup with the team since 2002. In 2008 and again in 2010, the Steelers added Byron Leftwich, who has a 24-25 record as a starter in the NFL.
Leftwich is on injured reserve after breaking a bone above his right elbow in the preseason, but the Steelers also have Dennis Dixon, a fifth-round pick in 2008 who is 2-1.
"I've said it before, even when you lose a good one like Byron, you still got a guy like Charlie," Roethlisberger said. "We have four guys who can start in this league."
Make no mistake, quarterbacks are more susceptible to injury than other players because they touch the ball on nearly every play. And those injuries have been on a dramatic rise the past couple of weeks.
Chicago's Jay Cutler (thumb) is expected to miss the rest of the regular season, and Kansas City's Matt Cassel (wrist) and Houston's Matt Schaub (foot) were already placed on injured reserve.
Also, Arizona's Kevin Kolb has missed the past two games with turf toe, and Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles missed last week's game against the Giants with bruised ribs.
The most celebrated injury is in Indianapolis where the Colts are still winless without their star quarterback, Peyton Manning. So bad was their depth situation behind Manning that the Colts had to coax Kerry Collins out of retirement for $4 million -- a move that really proved costly when Collins sustained a season-ending injury.
With the exception of the Eagles' Vince Young, who has a 31-17 record as a starter, most of the replacements have little, if any, proven track record. That's why the Chiefs signed veteran Kyle Orton four days ago after he was waived by the Denver Broncos. The lack of quality at such an important position would appear to be surprising, if not inexcusable.
Granted, it has been hard enough for teams to find starting quarterbacks, let alone backups. Even teams who used No. 1 draft picks on quarterbacks such as David Klingler, Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell quickly discovered it is not easy finding a competent one, let alone one who can lead them to the Super Bowl.
"It's a tough task finding quarterbacks in general," said Chiefs coach Todd Haley, who had a good one -- Kurt Warner -- when he was the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals the season they lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
"I think that's been proven in time on some of the hit-or-miss situations through the years, of either guys that everybody thought were no-brainers to be great and then they never panned out, or they were guys that nobody knew their names that turned out to be Kurt Warners. So it's a difficult task. It's a difficult task playing quarterback in the NFL, and I don't think it gets any easier or has gotten any easier through time."
Still, unlike some teams who prefer to cross their fingers that their quarterback won't get hurt, the Steelers always have adhered to the belief it is a better to be safe than sorry.
"I've always believed you better insulate yourself at that position," said general manager Kevin Colbert. "To me, you can never have enough good quarterbacks."
The Steelers have been able to do so, too, at a relatively affordable price.
Batch is in the final year of a contract that pays him $940,000 this season. Leftwich is in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him $2 million annually. And Dixon signed a one-year tender before the season that will earn him $1.2 million this season.
"We have done a good job of keeping our quarterbacks," team president Art Rooney II said. "And I think it helps that we have quarterbacks who want to be here."
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