The Steelers head into the offseason with a relatively stable situation at the quarterback position. The only question seems to be the pending free agency of backup Landry Jones. What happens with Jones will ultimately decide whether or not the Steelers choose to select one in the draft or go the free agency route to replace him if he decides to leave. The Steelers are blessed to have three quarterbacks with big arms, but behind Ben, the game experience is minimal despite the action Landry Jones has seen in the last two years. With Ben reaching the point in his career where it’s time to start contemplating retirement on a year by year basis, it’s almost a 100% certainty that retirement isn’t coming this year, and probably not even next year either. Landry Jones will probably be gone before Ben steps away. So, how does the quarterback situation look to play out for the Steelers heading into the 2017 season? Here is an early guess.
First of all, forget all the Ben Roethlisberger retirement talk. It’s important to understand that he didn’t volunteer anything on his own, regarding the topic of retirment, he was simply responding to a question he was asked about how many years he felt he had left. If there was a message he was subtly sending to the front office, it would seem to be nothing more than “Hey, I may not be around in a few years so you might want to start looking for someone who can properly use these weapons you got me”. Besides, after a year in which Ben threw for 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns, in 14 games, he still has plenty left in the tank. Considering that all Ben really had to throw to was Antonio Brown and a bunch of new guys, he had one of his better seasons. With a healthy and mentally refreshed Martavis Bryant returning next season, Ben is sure to feel five years younger next season.
Often in NFL cities, the most popular player is the backup quarterback, unless he is in Pittsburgh backing up Ben Roethlisberger. With Landry Jones it seems that fans either love him or hate him, which is unfortunate because he is actually a pretty decent backup. By the way some talk, they expect Jones to play like Ben straight off the bench. As rusty as Ben looks after missing a game or two, Landry Jones can’t be expected to perform in lights out fashion after going months without seeing any action, or without getting very many practice reps. During his 4 years with the Steelers, Jones has appeared in 15 games, which includes four starts, and has a 2-2 record. Landry has completed 60.3% of his passes for 1,071 yards, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and provided a calm presence until Ben has been healthy enough to get back on the field. The Steelers are going to allow Jones to test free agency to see if he can land a starting role someplace else. If there isn’t one to be had, it would make no sense for him to leave, or for the Steelers to let him walk away. Chances are, ultimately, that Landry Jones will resign with the Steelers and will head to Latrobe with his teammates later this summer for the start of training camp.
Pittsburgh’s number three quarterback, the other ‘berger, actually has more starting experience than Landry Jones and a bigger arm. Despite his 0-10 record as a starter, that came while leading a horrible Tennessee Titans offense, his numbers are somewhat comparable to those of Landry Jones. Coming to the Steelers at the end of the 2016 preseason, Mettenberger never got much of a chance to get any real work within the offense, so the coaching staff has to find out what they may have with their 3rd year quarterback. At 6’5″/ 224 lbs, he definitely has prototypical size, and the arm to make all the throws in Todd Haley’s offense. Now is the time for the Steelers to find out exactly what they have with this kid. He has all the talent in the world, and maybe all the weapons that the Steelers have on offense is just what he needs to realize his potential. A training camp battle with Landry Jones, for the right to be Ben’s primary backup, is the perfect scenario to find out what kind of future Mettenberger has.
The key to the Steelers success over the last 46 years has been stability, and on the field the need for stability starts at the quarterback position. for the last 12 years, the starter has been Ben Roethlisberger, but behind him, he has seen the likes of Brian St. Pierre, Tommy Maddox, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, and now Landry Jones. Stability is just as important at the primary backup quarterback spot, and Jones represents that. He knows the offense and has gotten more comfortable in the system each year. It makes little sense to allow him to leave only to have to start over at the position once again. As much as this will make some people cringe, it makes the most sense for the Steelers to resign Landry Jones for another couple of years, to maintain the stability that behind Ben.