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Friday, April 13, 2007

Looking at the QBs

Priorities are what often drive a draft more than anything else. As much as teams like to pay lip service to the old "best player available" mantra, let's be honest about something for a second: Few teams, if any, actually work their draft in that matter.

We're going to take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, position by position, over the next month as we try to get a better handle on what directions the team will go on April 28 and 29.

Today: The quarterbacks

Admit it. There's just a little bit of doubt in the back of your mind about Ben Roethlisberger. Is he the quarterback who led the team to a Super Bowl championship in his second season and had a 98.3 quarterback rating, or is he the guy who stumbled through 2006, throwing 23 interceptions and posting a 75.4 rating?

It's only natural. After Kordell Stewart's breakout season in 1997, he went in the tank in 1998 and 1999 and many fans never forgave him, even after he rebounded in 2000 and 2001.

Pittsburgh is an unforgiving town with its quarterbacks.

The boos weren't too quick in coming for Roethlisberger in 2006, but by the end of the season, they were there. A Super Bowl championship, apparently, will only take you so far.

Certainly his offseason motorcycle accident played a factor in his poor season – regardless of what Roethlisberger has said about it. His appendectomy that caused him to miss the first game didn’t help either.

But one thing is certain, Roethlisberger is much more hungry for success now. He wants to get back to the level that he played at in his first two seasons, when things seemed to come easily for him – perhaps too easily.

Some have said he didn't work hard enough because of that early success. And if that's true, last season should have been a nice dose of reality for the young QB.

Backing up Roethlisberger on the roster is veteran Charlie Batch, who played extremely well last season when Roethlisberger missed time, first with the appendectomy and later with a concussion.

Batch doesn’t have Roethlisberger's arm, but he does have a lot of moxie and he's proven that he can come in and get the job done when called upon. The other great thing about Batch is that he's content in his backup role – or at least as content as a competitor can be with not playing. He's not somebody who’s going to rock the boat or stab the starter in the back, something other quarterbacks may have done last season when Roethlisberger was struggling.

The Steelers brought Brian St. Pierre back for a second look last season after rookie Omar Jacobs didn't work out.

St. Pierre will never be more than a third quarterback, though the team looks as if it could be OK with him serving in that role again in 2007.

With Roethlisberger and Batch firmly established as the top two quarterbacks, anybody the Steelers add in the draft would be looked at as a possible replacement for St. Pierre.

Because of that, it's unlikely the team would spend a high or even mid–level pick on a quarterback in this year's draft as it did last year when it took Jacobs in the fifth round.

It's more likely the team would use a seventh-round pick on somebody to challenge St. Pierre or just wait to sign a rookie off the street to battle for that spot.

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