Labriola On

Labriola on 'grooming' a QB, adding a DB

Ready or not, here it comes:

A look back to November 2, 2014 when Joe Greene's No. 75 jersey was retired.

  • It's a concept often offered at this stage of the NFL calendar by Steelers fans. The concept of drafting a "developmental quarterback prospect in the later rounds to groom for a few seasons" behind Ben Roethlisberger. Sounds good, albeit a bit premature in my mind. But beyond premature, it's not real. It's just not.
  • It's not real because what the past half-dozen drafts have shown is that there are no quarterback prospects available in the "later rounds," because – are you ready, Steelers fans – it's possible to make the case that the best quarterback to enter the NFL in the later rounds – which for the purposes of this exercise are Rounds 4-5-6-7 – over the past six drafts is Landry Jones.
  • Yes. Landry Jones. The same guy most of the people suggesting this strategy are looking to replace is actually among the best of the bunch. And I'm on record as being among those believing that Landry Jones is the Steelers' best option for a viable backup to Roethlisberger, certainly in 2016 and likely in 2017 as well.
  • Let's check the video:
  • Starting with the 2010 NFL Draft "class" of quarterbacks, and you'll understand the quotation marks when you finish reading this list: There were 13 quarterbacks drafted overall, with nine of those coming in Rounds 4-7: Mike Kafka, John Skelton, Jonathan Crompton, Rust Smith, Dan Lefevour, Tony Pike, Levi Brown, Sean Canfield, and Zac Robinson. I could mention that the three quarterbacks picked before Kafka were Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, and Colt McCoy, but that would just be piling on.
  • In 2011, the quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 4-7 were: Ricky Stanzi, T.J. Yates, Nathan Enderle, Tyrod Taylor, and Greg McElroy. In 2012, the names are: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Lindley, B.J. Coleman, and Chandler Harnish. In 2013: Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones, Brad Sorensen, Zac Dysert, B.J. Daniels, and Sean Renfree.
  • The 2014 class offered: Logan Thomas, Tom Savage, Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, David Fales, Keith Wenning, Tajh Boyd, and Garrett Gilbert. In 2015, it was: Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, and Trevor Siemian.
  • The only names that even deserve to be mentioned in the same conversation as Landry Jones are Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, and A.J. McCarron. Including Jones, that's four from a group of 38 total, which works out to 10.5 percent.
  • And really, is there anyone out there who believes any of those four players would be a suitable successor to Roethlisberger?
  • Me neither.
  • The concept of drafting a "developmental quarterback prospect in the later rounds to groom for a few seasons" behind Ben Roethlisberger is simply not a high percentage move. Remember that when you start hearing those advocates for Christian Hackenberg or Cardale Jones, et. al.
  • Something else that sounds better in theory than it would turn out in reality is the idea of signing a veteran safety to contribute immediately in a Steelers secondary that needs considerable improvement. The latest suggestions involved signing either Reggie Nelson or Donte Whitner, Nelson being the unrestricted free agent and Whitner being a recent cut of the Cleveland Browns.
  • We begin with Nelson, whose skill-set actually could have been a decent fit for what the Steelers need from their safeties (t-a-k-e-a-w-a-y-s), what with him having eight interceptions in 2015 and 30 over the course of his nine NFL seasons. Much like the quarterback concept, however, this sounds better in theory than it actually would have been in reality.
  • Nelson, late of the Cincinnati Bengals, is one of those guys on a long-time rival who couldn't automatically be trusted to put his festering hatred of the Steelers aside quickly enough to integrate himself into their locker room dynamic and become a teammate to the same guys he very recently had been working so hard to destroy.
  • Another thing to be considered was Nelson's age, because he will turn 33 on Sept. 21, and athletes at that stage of their careers often have their skills drop off a cliff quickly and dramatically. And because Nelson went so long into the free agency period without so much as a sniff from another team likely came from word getting out about his salary demands. Forking over big money for an aging player who spent the entirety of his career hating you certainly wasn't the best way to try to go about finding the final pieces for a roster looking to compete for a championship next season.
  • Yesterday, it was announced that Nelson had signed a two-year contract with the Raiders that could be worth as much as $12 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Those numbers would've made Nelson the highest-paid defensive back on the Steelers roster instantly, and adding that to those previously mentioned factors – age, former team, history – that's just not the kind of move this franchise is going to make in free agency.
  • The other veteran candidate, Whitner, doesn't bring what the Steelers need from the kind of defensive backs talent they should be looking to add to this current group. Repeat after me: T-a-k-e-a-w-a-y-s. In 10 NFL seasons, Whitner has 11 interceptions – none in 2015 – and just to put those totals into perspective, Ike Taylor had 14 interceptions in his 12 NFL seasons. Like Nelson, Whitner is on the downside of his career – he'll be 31 on July 24 – but the absence of ball skills should be the bigger concern. As of the morning of April 8, Whitner remained unsigned.
  • There was one other option in this category recently presenting itself, and it's not surprising this was the one the Steelers chose to pursue, albeit unsuccessfully as a result of their 10-6 record in 2015.
  • In December 2014, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sustained a serious knee injury during a non-contact practice in advance of the Ducks' game against Ohio State in that season's college football playoffs. At 5-foot-9, 192 pounds, Ekpre-Olomu was being considered a second-round pick at worst, but after tearing his ACL and dislocating his knee, he ended up being a seventh-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2015, 14 slots before the end of that draft.
  • Earlier this week, Ekpre-Olomu was waived by the Browns, and the Steelers were one of four teams to put in a claim for him. But Ekpre-Olomu was awarded to the Miami Dolphins, whose 6-10 record in 2015 gave them priority over the Buffalo Bills (8-8), the New Orleans Saints (7-9), and the Steelers (10-6).
  • The team awarded Ekpre-Olomu on waivers – in this particular case, the Dolphins – get 48 hours to have him examined by their own doctors, who then either pass him or flunk him. If he passes the examination, Ekpre-Olomu's contract is assumed by the team awarded the waiver claim. If he is flunked, Ekpre-Olomu would revert back to his previous team – in this case, the Browns, who then could either keep him or waive him injured.
  • What it all means is that the Steelers will have to find reinforcements for their defensive backfield where they always figured to find reinforcements for their defensive backfield.
  • During the seven rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.
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