Your old pal Chris here. A couple weeks back, I ran a special Guest Blogger column by longtime reader Hennessy. His post generated the most comments in Total Steelers history clearly indicating yinz guys like him better than you like me. Since I’m still stunned and angry over the Baltimore game and, left to my own devices, I’d write five posts ranting about the various travesties that happened on Sunday, I figured it might be nice to bring in a relief pitcher to change things up a bit. Take it away, Hennessy…
The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted five quarterbacks since 2000, all of them in the fifth round, except, of course, Ben Roethlisberger. The brightest star in that group was Ex-Tennessee Volunteer Tee Martin, mostly because he had a pretty cool name which sounded particularly good in Pittsburghese. As we learned (the hard way) last Sunday, not to mention with the parade of human traffic cones who man the offensive line every season, we’ve clearly had greater areas of need in recent drafts. But this season and the success of Young Money have me hoping there is a plan to develop a game-ready mentor to Ben in the coming years.
I never thought I would find myself in this position, but Bruce Arians has made me a fan of the pass-first offense. That’s not to say I don’t shudder every time I hear someone saying we are getting away from “Steeler Football” (because we are, and yinzers don’t take well to change with the Stillers). There might not be anything more fun to watch than the pounding football of old, but the way Ben snaps, scrambles and throws has been pretty entertaining. And whadda ya know, he’s winning a lot of damn football games doing it.
I don’t want to give Air Force Arians too much credit. The shift was as much due to the smart pick-up of Ben and the great receivers the team has unearthed in the draft as it was Bruce crying to the powers-that-be to let him air the ball out more often. Once we retired Jerome Bettis, relieved ourselves of
Fast Medium-Speed Willie Parker, and removed Deuce “Sweatpants” Staley from the sideline, there was little option left than to lean on Ben and the Flying Circus. But, as many wide-eyed football fans may have seen in Indianapolis this year, leaning on your quarterback to overshadow the mediocrity of the other 21 positions is a dangerous gamble. At least if your intention is to win a football game or two each year.
Sure, we have a great defense Sure, our kicker is a sure-footed marksman. Sure, we have legendary ownership and great decision makers. I admire Chaz’s goodwill toward the Pittsburgh community and his commitment to the team, but who thinks the Baltimore game comes down to three points and eight seconds if Coach Batch is under center? How about Scramblin’ Dennis Dixon or Byron Leftwich? None of those options make my blood pressure go down when it looks like Ben might not be taking snaps on Sunday.
If we are going to sustain a pass-first offense, and win games doing so, it’s time for the front office to make sure there is always someone available to pass the ball – no?
Quarterback controversies are rampant right now. Denver is praying for Tim Tebow, Oakland worries about Gimpy Carson Palmer, Kansas City relies on Brady’s personal assistant/hair stylist Matt Cassel. Big Ben is one-of-a-kind, not only in his ability to make the most out of broken plays, but also in his size and ability to absorb punishment. Don’t be fooled, Ben’s physical stature and his ability to work around a weak O-Line is crucial to Mike Tomlin’s winning formula. It’s time management put a little more emphasis on finding someone who can watch from the sidelines and be ready to strap on a helmet when needed. If Ben’s iron-plated hoof finally gives in, or his neck seizes up like a Bengal on the first day in prison, I’d rather have the next Aaron Rodgers come off the bench than betting the Steelers’ fortunes on Byron “One-Game” Leftwich.
Well put. We have a decent set of backups but you’re right. We don’t have a set, couple or even a single future starter that I can see. Dennis might have a future but not as bright as we once thought. You would think with everything going on in Indy we would be scouting now. The difference between this and yesterdays subject is an above average quarterback isn’t just sitting by at the Circle K with Bill and Ted waiting on their next adventure. We need to make plans now…
I feel like our backups are caliber enough not to screw up a good game, but they surely can’t be tasked with winning a big one. Its nice to have a defense proven capable of picking up the offensive slack, but it’s really time to have redundancy at QB. But then again, playing Baltimore twice a year is reason enough to suit up an able arm in case of injury.
The real question is how do we do it – how do we find and sign the next benchwarmer turned championship winning quarterback? You might be able to retread an old kicker (maybe they’ll try that out before Sunday by the way), but not a QB. I dont see them going round 1 draft pick at the position, so that pretty much leaves surfing the lower rounds for a viable Ben Jr. What we really need is a guy capable of watching games from the best seat in the house, and grooming to play LIKE Ben and develop plays LIKE Ben and stay off of motorcycles UNLIKE Ben.
I really just want to see them making the effort. If everyone could find a diamond in the rough I don’t think you would see half of these QBs playing on Sunday because they are the “best option at the moment”. But, we’ve made Steelers out of undrafted and low round picks before, so why cant we break the mold on the QB position too?
The alternative is handing the ball off to Mendenhall and watch his masochistic urge to run into the biggest wall he can for 60 minutes. We wouldn’t win any games, but that might actually be pretty entertaining to watch.
Thanks for the comment bILL!
To be fair, the Steelers did try to do what you’re suggesting when they drafted Dennis Dixon. Believe it or not, he was considered a pretty good QB prospect his first three years at Oregon (google old stories about him, they pimped him real hard for the Heisman as a Junior). So the Steelers thought they were getting a starter caliber QB who they could groom as what you’re describing.
Obviously, he hasn’t worked out like they hoped.
I understand what you’re saying in this post but I have to wonder how feasible it really is to plan for the worst (ie Ben getting hurt). There was a great quote by Jim Irsay (Colts owner) when a reporter asked why they didn’t give Curtis Painter reps in practice and he said, “Because if we have to play Painter, we’re screwed anyway.” I think the same goes for the Steelers, no matter who we have as a back-up.
Duly noted, and thought of when I put this together. Dicks was a great college QB, because he had the same “scramble and make it happen” style. Its a shame he didn’t have the chance to wear a different uniform every game like they do now, or he really could have thrown the opposition into tailspin.
I really popped this off thinking about the future. The bungals are in first place, we were swept by the Baltimore Ravens (they deserve more than a slang after those ass-whuppins) for the first time in ___ years, and if Ben goes down this Sunday, it’s over. That is one man out of 22 on the field that means thinking playoffs or thinking about 2012. Its scary to think that we’re one Kimo Von Oelhoffen away from worrying about next season.
My favorite player that doesn’t suit up in black and gold is Aaron Rodgers. Its because he sat behind the Dong Flasher, learned how to play NFL football from a legend, then sprung off the bench when asked and BEAT OUR ASS WHEN NEEDED….
“He wrote a great story of a great team, a great tradition, and made a great effort to win a trophy” as Troy would say. I want that next story, trophy, and badass QB to be wearing a steelmark on his helmet.
That is to say, after Ben gets a few more pieces of hardware to take home to Pittsburgh…