The Pittsburgh Steelers Should Have Waited Until 2014 to Draft Developmental QB
BY RICHARD WHITE JR - MAY 3RD, 2014
In 2013, when the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Landry Jones from Oklahoma with their second pick, I had lots of questions. Sure he had great stats while in college (63.6% completion percentage, 16646 yards, 123 touchdowns, 52 interceptions), but his draft profiles included questions about his confidence, consistency, and mobility. His preseason performance left much to be desired (45.5% completion, 348 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions), even if it was only a few months into the first year of his development.
In my opinion, confidence and mental toughness are two things you are going to want in a developmental/backup quarterback (or any quarterback for that matter). As a developmental project, I would rather take a quarterback with good intangibles that needs some work on his skill set rather than the other way around. This player is going to have to ride the bench behind the starter and be able learn, absorb, and practice as much as possible without getting his feelings hurt that he is not the starter. He is going to have to shake off any mistakes he makes, and continue to progress and become a better quarterback. If Landry Jones lacks the ability to do that, he is not going to develop into a good quarterback and I have reservations about having him on the team at all.
This year’s crop of mid-tier quarterbacks is an interesting group, especially the group coming out of the Southeastern Conference. Besides “Johnny Football” who pretty much everybody is familiar with and is projected by most analysts to be a top ten pick, this is the crop of SEC quarterbacks coming out in this draft:
AJ McCarron, a three-time National Champion (two as a starter) with a 36-3 win-loss record as a starter, including bowl games. He was also the winner of the 2013 Maxwell and Johnny Unitas Golden Football Awards and was a Heisman finalist. AJ worked his way into the starting quarterback position at Alabama after receiving doubts from Nick Saban and continues to play with a chip on his shoulder and work harder than anybody around him.
Aaron Murray, was a four-year starter at Georgia and now holds pretty much every Georgia and SEC career passing record, including touchdowns (121) and yards (13, 166). Prior to the 2012 season, I picked Georgia to go to the National Championship game that year, due mostly to the excellent quarterback play of Murray (along with the excellent linebacker play of the Steelers 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones) and while his NFL draft profile has some questions about his anxiety in big games, he led the Georgia team to being five yards away from beating Alabama in the SEC Championship and going on to the National Championship that year. I think he could be developed into a great quarterback.
Zach Mettenberger, while not having the accolades of the first two, did have to work to overcome off-the-field mistakes he made during the early years of his career and eventually become the starter at LSU, showing improvement and maturity in his senior year in a pro-style offense.
Connor Shaw is Tim Tebow minus the hype. (And possibly the extreme religious views?) While playing in a mostly dink-and-dunk type offense, Shaw had to use his athleticism and will his team to victory at times. As far as intangibles go, he is the cream of the crop. As a late round selection (not a first round reach like Tebow), he will be interesting to watch and see develop.
These are a few of the developmental type quarterbacks coming out in the draft this year that showed up on my radar over the years. Others that I don’t know as well that could be good developmental projects include Tajh Boyd who holds several ACC records now, Tom Savage from Pittsburgh whose stock has been rising, and Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech. The way Teddy Bridgewater is falling down draft boards, he may be considered a developmental project as well at this point.
I don’t think Landry Jones is going to end up anything more than the third string QB for his entire career. I definitely don’t want the Steelers to reach for another developmental project, but if one of these quarterbacks was to fall into a round where they become a great value pick, or even go undrafted, I would see no fault in adding them to the roster to compete with Landry Jones for the backup/developmental spot.