Another in a position-by-position series examining the Steelers roster in advance of the start of free agency on March 10:*
(Free Agent Scorecard at the position: None)
He completed his second season with the team having to play only three meaningful offensive snaps, and those didn't come until the Wild Card loss to the Ravens. In that game, while Ben Roethlisberger was shaken up and sent to the sideline, Gradkowski came off the bench and completed an 18-yard pass to Heath Miller on a third-and-21, and then he converted the fourth-and-3 with a 4-yard completion to Antonio Brown. After an incomplete pass on first down from the Baltimore 14-yard line, Roethlisberger returned. For the teams owning a franchise quarterback, the best veteran backups are those who can come off the bench within a game and/or play for short stretches within a season and not be a liability. Just give the team a chance. Gradkowski's performance vs. the Ravens indicated he could be capable of that, but it's also OK if the Steelers never have to find out for sure.
Photos of the Steelers Quarterbacks during the 2014 season.
This is going to be a make-or-break training camp for Jones, and he would be wise to prepare himself for that with a solid offseason. For Jones to survive in the NFL, he must improve his recognition and decision-making so that he can utilize those elements to put the ball where it needs to be. Landry Jones is not the kind of quarterback to take a seven-step drop and fire rockets that split coverage and find receivers down the field. Going into his third year, Jones ideally should be competing for the backup job, but his reality is that he still has to prove he belongs on an NFL roster.
In terms of the way he played the position and led the offense, Roethlisberger's 11th NFL season was his best. And it also ranked among the best seasons of any NFL quarterback at a time when Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, and Aaron Rodgers also all put up impressive numbers. In the regular season NFL quarterback rankings, Roethlisberger was fourth in attempts, third in completions, third in completion percentage, tied-for-first in yards, third in average gain, seventh in touchdowns, fourth in interception percentage, and third in passer rating. No one else in the league ranked in the top 10 in each of those categories. Roethlisberger is due a contract extension this offseason, and he deserves it.