The first of a position-by-position series in advance of the start of free agency on March 14.
A LAST LOOK AT 2017**
It’s always a good thing for an NFL team when nobody but the starter has to take any meaningful snaps during the entirety of a 16-game regular season, and that’s the way it worked out for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger started 15 games, and he finished the season ranked fifth in the NFL with 4,251 passing yards, his franchise-record fifth season with at least 4,000 passing yards. Roethlisberger had at least two touchdown passes in seven consecutive games (Weeks 10-16), the longest streak in team history, and he also continued to place himself among the all-time greats in different passing categories. A couple of the notable ones include: becoming the eighth quarterback in NFL history to pass for 50,000 yards in regular season games; becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 500 passes to three different teammates (Heath Miller, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown); and joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees, John Elway, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, and Brett Favre as the seven quarterbacks in NFL history to record 125 regular season wins as a starter.
Landry Jones started the regular season finale when Roethlisberger was given the afternoon off, and he acquitted himself well in quarterbacking an offense – also playing without Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Antonio Brown – to a victory over the Cleveland Browns. As for his statistics in that victory, Jones completed 23-of-27 (85.2 percent) for 239 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, and a rating of 100.5.
Joshua Dobbs, the rookie who had been drafted in the fourth round from Tennessee, spent the regular season working on the fundamentals of the position with quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner. He was inactive for all of the regular season games, except the finale for which he served as Jones’ backup but did not play.
ONE STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Starting with the first-round pick in 2004 that brought them Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have made 115 drat picks. Four of those 115 were quarterbacks, and two of those four – Roethlisberger and Jones – still fill significant roles for the team.
A LOOK AHEAD TO 2018
One year ago, shortly after the season ended with a loss in the AFC Championship Game, Ben Roethlisberger said publicly that he wasn’t ready to commit to playing in 2017. Some weeks ago, immediately following a loss in the AFC Divisional Round, Roethlisberger was asked about his plans for the immediate future, and his response was one that likely will chart the team’s course at this position during the upcoming offseason.
“I definitely have a desire to play football. I love this game. I love these guys,” said Roethlisberger. “And I will be – like I said, I don’t know about contracts and who’s coming back, but I know the guys up front are. That makes it good for me. So I look forward to next year with those guys.”
In a subsequent interview, Roethlisberger said he would be interested in playing three more seasons, and he currently is signed for two more years, through the 2019 season. When the Steelers used a fourth-round pick on Jones in 2013, the idea behind the move was for the team to groom and develop a player into a competent, quality, capable NFL backup quarterback, and that describes Jones as he’s about to enter his sixth professional season.
With Roethlisberger on board for a couple of more seasons, with Jones under contract for another season, and with Joshua Dobbs continuing to work on the fundamentals of the position, it doesn’t seem as though the Steelers will need to be looking for anything at this position during the upcoming offseason with the exception of a fourth arm for training camp and the preseason.