This Steelers off season has been much like their 8-8 regular season: inconsistent with questionable decisions and very painful for the fans of Steeler Nation. For the moment the off season pain has subsided by the lure of the NFL Draft which brings excitement and a transitory ray of hope to all fan bases. The NFL draft concludes rounds 4 through 7 today with the Steelers having 5 picks. With their first 3 picks in the books the Steelers are looking to add a future starter or two, depth and special teams with the remaining 5 draft picks and college free agents.The Steelers have needs all over the board and in some positions such as linebacker and safety, they need to draft more than one player. However the one position they absolutely do not have a need for is quarterback. In weeks leading up to the draft I kept hearing they need to draft a quarterback “to groom”. Every time I hear this my head explodes. To groom for what? Why? Third team? The practice squad? To play 6 quarters in the pre-season for the next 4 years? To hold for extra points? Are you kidding me?
Quarterback is the one and only position they don’t need. The Steelers can ill afford to pick a player who most likely will have no actual or minimal playing time as a Steeler. They just signed Bruce Gradkowski (who has NFL starting experience) to a 3 year contract to back up Ben Roethlisberger who is a franchise quarterback still in his prime. It is imperative the Steelers hit on as many draft picks as they can. They can ill afford more than a couple misses. Drafting a quarterback in today’s final 4 rounds would be a virtual guaranteed miss.
The drafting of quarterback’s league wide
Take a look at the starting quarterbacks in the league today, most (23) are first round picks, (4) second round picks, (2) third round picks, a 6th round pick (Tom Brady), a 7th round pick (newly anointed Raiders starting QB Matt Flynn) and Tony Romo who was an undrafted free agent. 90% (29 out of 32) of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL were chosen in rounds 1-3. Many of the 2nd and 3rd team back ups league wide are first and second round picks who could not cut it as an every game starter and more importantly are not with the team they were drafted by. If a team wants a franchise quarterback it is proven that it must be a first to second round draft pick – or – through free agency like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. If the Steelers want to groom a quarterback to be a future starter from the 4th round on, they need to pass on that idea and let another team “groom” a quarterback to be a future Steelers back up quarterback.
Steelers: Have they learned from their own QB draft history?
In the NFL almost every quarterback drafted past round 3 is a long shot to make the team, develop and then take over the starting job for that team. Still not a believer? The Steelers are a perfect team to illustrate this point. Lets take a look at the Steelers quarterback draft history beginning in 1991 which was Tom Donahoe’s first year as GM:
1992 Round 12 Cornelius Benton Connecticut
1993 Round 8 Alex Van Pelt Pittsburgh
1994 Round 6 Jim Miller Michigan State
1995 Round 2 Kordell Stewart Colorado
1996 Round 6 Spencer Fischer Duke
2000 Round 5 Tee Martin Tennessee
2003 Round 5 Brian St. Pierre Boston College
2004 Round 1 Ben Roethlisberger Miami of Ohio
2006 Round 5 Omar Jacobs Bowling Green
2008 Round 5 Dennis Dixon Oregon
The draft went from 12 rounds to 8 rounds in 1993 and then to 7 rounds in 1994. Now remove Kordell Stewart (Round 2) and Ben Roethlisberger (Round 1) as they fall into the category of potential franchise quarterback based on their draft rounds 1 & 2. That leaves 8 other quarterbacks who were drafted by the Steelers from 1992 – 2008. That is an entire draft of players that provided virtually nothing to the Steelers organization (8 picks equal the number of picks the Steelers have in this years draft). The most successful of this group – with the Steelers – was Dennis Dixon who for unknown reasons the Steelers gave up on. He is now a back up in Philadelphia. Miller who lasted all of one half as the starter against Jacksonville in the first game of the 1996 season, went on to have moderate success with the Chicago Bears. This is a terrible track record and the worst the Steelers have had at any position past round 3 since 1991 or maybe ever.