Former (and possibly future) Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch has openly wondered whether the team drafted quarterback Landry Jones to eventually supplant starter Ben Roethlisberger.
Jones reacted to that notion with a smile and a shake of the head, per the Associated Press.
“I have no idea,” Jones said. “You might want to talk to the coaches or Mr. Rooney on that one, what they want to do. I’m just here to learn football. They give me an opportunity to come play.”
The AP items address the possibility of Jones replacing Roethlisberger dismissively, calling it “preposterous” and suggesting that the 31-year-old Roehtlisberger “could easily play for the better part of another decade before the Steelers need to get serious about a successor.”
While there’s a strong chance that assessment is right, Roethlisberger has been banged up plenty during his career, with ailments both real and exaggerated. He’s an old 31, and he’s not a classic pocket passer who doesn’t need mobility to be effective.
Roethlisberger is at his best when he lugs his big body out of the pocket, shedding would-be tacklers and making throws on the run arguably more accurate than those he could make standing still. As he gets closer to 35, he may not continue to have the ability to evade defensive ends and linebackers behind the line of scrimmage, putting a serious crimp in his overall game.
Then there’s the fact that his contract will expire after the 2015 season, barring an extension. As his cap number grows and grows via a series of cap-managing restructurings, Roethlisberger acquires more and more leverage for his next contract. At a minimum, the Steelers need to have a Plan B in the event Ben decides he wants far more than the team can or will pay.
Jones could end up being their best bet, especially if he’s able to find the potential that he had before he deteriorated into a round-four prospect.
Again, chances are Roethlisberger will remain the guy, and that Jones will be the next Dennis Dixon, who plays out his four-year contract and then moves on. Still, the Steelers at least realize that aging backups may not be the best approach when employing an aging starter who may want his retirement contract to be bigger than the front office intends.