A Closer Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterbacks

By Curt Popejoy

This is a quarterback driven league.  The sooner you accept it the better things will be.  The NFL has gone out of it’s way to tailor the rules to fit the passing game, making the signal caller the most vital position on the field.  And this isn’t necissarily a good thing.  What this means for many teams is, from week 1 of the regular season their odds of making it to and winning the Super Bowl are long and history and the league points to them bring eliminated before the season begins.

I realize that’s harsh to say, but having been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan for a long time, I understand the reality of it.  In the early 2000’s, the Steelers had some tremendous football teams with smothering defenses and powerful run games.  But until Ben Roethlisberger was drafted, and by sheer luck(and 2 injuries) was named the starter, a Super Bowl win was always out of reach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rolling into 2012 the Steelers are implementing a new offensive system courtsey of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and for the most part, the players seem to be getting on board with it.  Except the one guy who really needs to be.  And that’s Roethlisberger.  The basic concept that runs through Haley’s offense is rhythm and tempo.  Quick reads, quick throws, checkdowns and dump offs.

What I am seeing 2 preseason games in is Roethlisberger is still holding the football, waiting for his guy to get open, working hard to extend the play and in general just being Big Ben.  There are players short that are open, but rather than check down, Ben is waiting.  Haley uses a lot of crosses with short and intermediate routes to force zone defenses to commit and then Ben makes the read, but sometimes is holding out for the deeper cross to open up rather than take the shallow cross sooner.  Same with the dump offs.  Early in last week’s game Ben looked to running back Chris Rainey and he’s going to have to do that more in the regular season.  Rainey is such a weapon, Roethlisberger must take advantage of him.

Now, I’m not saying that Roethlisberger’s style of football is going to cost the Steelers games.  The man has been amazing during his career, and has the hardware to prove it.  But Haley’s offense has the potential to be incredibly explosive if Roethlisberger gets on board with the system and the weapons he has.  If he does I think he has the potential with the talent on this roster to be the league MVP.

I also feel like I need to mention the backup quarterbacks on this roster.  Right now there are 3 players working for 2 spots.  With Charlie Batch you have a local hero who might as well be the mayor of Pittsburgh.  I suspect he has a spot on the team as long as he wants one.  That leaves a 2 fer 1.  The incumbent is veteran Byron Leftwich and rookie Jerrod Johnson.  I don’t know where most Steelers fans fall on this debate but after 2 games this preseason, I don’t see any way they can continue to keep Leftwich on the roster at the expense of a young talent like Johnson.  He’s got tremendous size, a real live arm and nice athleticism.  There is no scenario other than injury that makes any sense to keep Leftiwch on this team another season.

Overall, I am more than confident with the Steelers quarterbacks.  In Roethlisberger you have a top ten talent in the league who just finds ways to will his team to victory.  But my interest is piqued about seeing Roethlisberger and these backs and wide outs clicking in this offense.   And regardless of Batch’s advanced age, it would be mitigated by having the youngster Johnson waiting in the wings.  Bring on the NFL season, because it’s time to play ball!

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