Though it feels like number seven has been under center for the Pittsburgh Steelers since the first Bush Administration, it wasn’t until the end of last season that the team and fans began to realize that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be dawning the black and gold forever; following an ugly loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Big Ben informed the media that he was unsure if he would be back to play in 2017. Ultimately, the 35-year old quarterback announced that he would return for his 14th season in Pittsburgh, as Steeler Nation let out a gigantic sigh of relief.
Pittsburgh is thrilled to have its long-time franchise quarterback for at least one more season, as he is still playing at an elite level; he missed two games in 2016, but still threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns with a passer rating of 95.4. However, Big Ben has made it known that his days in the NFL are numbered, and although his return shores up the quarterback situation for at least the 2017-2018 season, the time to find and groom his replacement is now.
Is the future starting quarterback currently on the Steelers roster? Landry Jones has shown in his four years in the league that, while he certainly has value as a mid-tier back-up, his game is too limited for him to be an effective starting NFL quarterback. While Pittsburgh essentially knows what it has in Jones, the real unknown is Joshua Dobbs, whom the Steelers selected in the fourth round out of the University of Tennessee in the 2017 NFL Draft. Dobbs is raw, but has good arm talent and is very intelligent, as he studied aeronautics engineering while in college.
Credit Pittsburgh for making what I believe was a good decision in selecting Dobbs with a late-round pick, as it gives them a talented quarterback they can potentially groom without having to take much of a risk. However, expectations should be tempered a bit; Dobbs lacks great mechanics, as he has sub-par footwork and a tendency to struggle with accuracy at times. That’s not to say that the former SEC quarterback can’t eventually develop into a successful NFL starter, but he has a long road ahead of him.
So, if Pittsburgh does not believe the future starting quarterback is currently on the roster, what is their next step to ensure they have that player before Ben Roethlisberger retires? The 2018 draft is likely going to be loaded at the quarterback position, so Pittsburgh could choose to take that route; the team should end up having a late first-round selection again, however, after seeing teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans move way up in the first round to get their quarterbacks in the most recent draft, it’s possible Pittsburgh makes a similar move in next year’s draft if they find a quarterback worth taking.
The Steelers may want to use their early-round picks next year to maximize their title window with Roethlisberger, so it’s possible they don’t select a quarterback at all. In that case, the next best option would be to sign a starting quarterback via free agency once Big Ben decides to hang them up, or perhaps even trade for one. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh chooses to address the situation in front of them.
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