We, as football fans take things for granted. Indianapolis Colts fans took for granted they would always have quarterback Peyton Manning under center. The team did as well as they did virtually nothing to cultivate a decent backup during his tenure with the Colts. And in 2011, when Manning was unable to play due to injury, everyone saw what happens when you are ill-prepared to replace a star with even a serviceable replacement. And in 2012 the Pittsburgh Steelers also discovered that when you take your star for granted and put no time or resources into his backups, when he’s out of the game, the team can’t function.
When quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went down with a shoulder injury mid-season while the Steelers were on a roll, Steelers fans everywhere cringed. The backups, while experienced, lacked talent. Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are both quarterbacks in the most literal sense, but neither were able to run the Steelers offense with any confidence or effectiveness. And so moving forward, this franchise must think seriously about bringing in a quality young signal caller to not only provide talented depth, but to possibly groom to replace Roethlisberger down the road.
But it’s never so simple as to just say, “let’s draft a quarterback”. This is a Steelers team with significant salary cap concerns as well as some spots on the roster that will need to be addressed for 2013. So the question becomes how early can the Steelers commit a draft pick to a player that may not see the field in the next five seasons, but at the same time, the odds of finding a quarterback who can come in and play at a high level go down exponentially the further you go in the draft.
I wouldn’t draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, but for me, any round beyond it would be fair game. With the needs on this team, I really think the Steelers can draft an impact player at one of three or four other positions in the first round, whether it’s an inside linebacker or cornerback, to a defensive tackle or safety.
But moving beyond the first, there are several prospects I really like that I think would be a nice value for the Steelers. First is EJ Manuel from Florida State. Manuel is a very talented athlete who’s still a little rough around the edges when it comes to the quarterback position, but has a ceiling as high as any quarterback in this draft. If the Steelers could get Manuel at the end of the 2nd round through their pick in the 3rd round, I’d be very happy. A pick like Manuel would probably mean a veteran backup would need to be on the roster while he worked out the kinks, but long-term I love how good he could be in a system that accounts for a quarterback that likes to extend the play with his legs.
The other quarterback I like in the same range is Zac Dysert from Miami(OH). I have to admit I was a late adopter on Dysert. The first game I saw him play he looked erratic and rattled. Made poor decisions with the football and forced a lot of throws. But as I was able to go back in and watch more of his games, it became very clear he was playing on a dreadful football team, and was putting so much pressure on himself to carry the team, he was going to struggle. But going back and just breaking his game down, there is so much to like about his game. I’ll go into further detail in his scouting report, but cliche’ aside, he reminds me a little of Roethlisberger, as he’s strong in the pocket, nice feet and a quick set up and throw.
Comparing Manuel to Dysert, I’d put Dysert more NFL ready, but in terms of potential, I’d put Manuel’s quite a bit higher. If the Steelers want to draft either of these young men, they have to consider which one will be ready to play next season as opposed to which one can be better in three or four years and which is more important. But whether or not they draft one of these quarterbacks or not, the front office must draft a quarterback this year for something more than just a camp body and begin to look to the future.
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