MIRZA ZUKIC: Do Steelers really need a third QB?
PITTSBURGH — So what have we learned from the preseason? That Steelers first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier is fast.
That Mike Mitchell is the hard-hitting safety the Steelers thought they were getting, and that he sure does talk a lot of trash.
And maybe most importantly, we learned Thursday night in their preseason finale that the Steelers have no use for two of their quarterbacks.
Second-year backup Landry Jones started and got every opportunity to make an impression in Thursday’s 10-0 loss to Carolina, and he did, but it was the wrong one. Sure, he completed 14 of his 18 pass attempts, but the positives end there.
Although he took the Steelers into Carolina territory on four of his six drives, Pittsburgh never crossed Carolina’s 41-yard line.
Forget a touchdown drive, he couldn’t even drive the Steelers into field-goal range, making for a long, boring night for Shaun Suisham and most of you who watched.
Jones averaged fewer than 6 yards per pass attempt, he still seems weeks away from mastering the playbook, and quite frankly, he appeared scared to throw the deep ball. Just about every one of his 18 pass attempts was within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He had chances to throw it deep, but he decided to check down on those plays.
It’s true he didn’t force a bad pass that led to a turnover, but he also never really gave the offense a chance to score, let alone win.
“It’s quite simple, not enough cohesion to sustain drives and put points on the board,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “When you lack that type of cohesion, you’d better get splash plays to flip the field, ring the scoreboard up and we didn’t do that.”
As proud as the Steelers are of their “standard,” they need to break away from it.
The standard for the Steelers has been to keep three quarterbacks on their regular-season 53-player roster. But this season, that seems to be a mistake.
Without a doubt, going with two healthy quarterbacks is a dangerous strategy. What if both get injured? The Steelers have seen it happen first hand. Think back to the 2012 season, when Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich went down with injuries in back-to-back weeks.
Yet despite Ben Roethlisberger’s proneness to injuries, and the offensive line’s similar plight seemingly every season, which in turn jeopardizes the quarterback’s health, it’s in the team’s best interest to move forward with two quarterbacks. It’s not so much a knock on Jones as it is a necessity for the Steelers.
The fact of the matter is the Steelers are a shell of the team that played in three Super Bowls between 2006 and 2011. They need players who can help them win games. They need playmakers other than Antonio Brown, and they need a handful of them.
Landry Jones and Brendon Kay aren’t those guys.
By keeping only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, which must be determined by 4 p.m. Saturday, the Steelers can keep six wide receivers instead of five like they usually do. Or they could go with five or six running backs. In other words, more playmakers.
Don’t be surprised if running backs Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount are hit with suspensions for their run-in with the law. Having six running backs in that situation would be helpful.
Lastly, the offensive line should be one of the Steelers’ strengths this year. So long as everyone stays healthy, the Steelers might have one of the best front five the league. That’ll help keep Roethlisberger upright and healthy.
Besides, if the Steelers are to have a winning year this season, it’ll be on Roethlisberger’s shoulders. So if he and Gradkowski both got hurt, it wouldn’t matter who took over, Jones, Kay or an emergency quarterback, the Steelers would be … well, to put it lightly, toast.