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Gradkowski ready for responsibility of backing up Ben

Bruce Gradkowski AP

For Pittsburgh-native Bruce Gradkowski, the chance to run with the starters in Heinz Field is special, even if it happens in June.

But for the Steelers, his work represents a significant change after years of relying on an aging group of backup quarterbacks.

With Ben Roethlisberger on the mend from knee surgery, Gradkowski worked with the starters during a practice in the Steelers’ home stadium Thursday, preparing for an understudy role that history indicates will eventually be called on.

“As a backup, you have to prepare as the starter, even harder,” Gradkowski said, via Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You know you aren’t going to get those reps in practice. You just mentally have to be prepared, and when your time is called you try to take advantage of the opportunity.”

And that opportunity usually comes. Roethlisberger has only played all 16 games once in his nine-year career, putting the team in the hands of either veteran backups Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch in recent years.

But with Roethlisberger’s condition and the age of those two, the Steelers decided to get younger, signing Gradkowski away from the Bengals and using a fourth-round pick on Landry Jones.

Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said it was time to “freshen up the room.”

“I don’t know if there was a point where you felt this just wasn’t working anymore,” Fichtner said. “They [Leftwich and Batch] have given us some very good reps here. They have been great complements to Ben, to me and our offense.”

But they think they’ve upgraded, and Gradkowski feels the same way.

“It’s a great opportunity to be here,” said Gradkowski, who has played for the Bengals, Raiders, Browns and Buccaneers. “Their goal is to win a championship. You can talk about that all you want at other places, but here it’s a reality.”

And the reality is, at some point, it’s going to be his responsibility.

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18 Responses to “Gradkowski ready for responsibility of backing up Ben”
  1. raiderlyfe510 says: Jun 7, 2013 9:39 AM

    Gradkowski’s the man. Best Raider QB since Rich Gannon. Fierce competitor.

  2. autumnwind999 says: Jun 7, 2013 9:44 AM

    Bruce Almighty is the Man! Loved him in Oakland.

  3. mitchitized says: Jun 7, 2013 10:16 AM

    Glad they finally did it. About five years too late, costing us playoffs and crippling our chances, but it is finally done.

    I LOVE Charlie and Lord Byron and am sad to see them go, but just like with the Bus and Hines, it was time.

  4. whodey18 says: Jun 7, 2013 10:17 AM

    Shut up Gradkowski, Geno will have you on your back!

  5. hedleykow says: Jun 7, 2013 10:36 AM

    How does it matter? Tomlin isn’t smart enough to put in a backup. Only Tomlin can figure out a way to lose a playoff game to TEBOW.

  6. crownofthehelmet says: Jun 7, 2013 11:41 AM

    As a Steeler fan, I still remember that lethal combo of Gradkowski – Louis Murphy. At least they were lethal for one miserable Sunday.

  7. cfeeley52 says: Jun 7, 2013 11:48 AM

    No way powderpuff makes it through the whole season, good luck with this career backup after the softest qb in the league goes down, again…

  8. Kaz says: Jun 7, 2013 12:03 PM

    You know the Steelers have had reeeeaaly old backup qb’s if they consider Gradkowski “young”. You guys act like he’s an up and comer. He’s on the downside of his career. But he’s still “young” I guess compared to Charlie.

  9. Nofoolnodrool says: Jun 7, 2013 12:21 PM

    No way powderpuff makes it through the whole season, good luck with this career backup after the softest qb in the league goes down, again…

    Calling Ben soft just shows your total lack of knowledge about football and reveals as a fanboy who just says anything to bash a team/player he is jealous of….pathetic same old trash…par for a raven troll.

  10. cfeeley52 says: Jun 7, 2013 1:42 PM

    And nofool fell for the troll bait…
    I know big ben is a tough SOB, but he IS injury prone which means back up qb really should be a priority for the steelers. However, bringing in gradkowski as your new ‘young’ backup just makes me laugh…

  11. finallythevoiceofreason says: Jun 7, 2013 2:33 PM

    “but he IS injury prone”

    Do you realize how many sacks Roethlisberger has taken in his career? Add to that the number of times he his hit before he throws or hit after he throws and most other QBs’ careers would have been over long ago. You cannot call the guy “injury prone” when he has taken more hits over his career than any other QB in the same span. He is not Superman. Of course he is going to be injured.

  12. cfeeley52 says: Jun 7, 2013 3:20 PM

    You’re missing the point here, Ben is injury prone BECAUSE he has taken more hits than any other quarterback in the last nine years. If you look at the elite QB’s like Manning and Brady they find a way to get rid of the ball before they take those big hits. Ben always gets injured trying to extend the play, which I’ll admit is fun to watch, but it means he’s constantly getting hurt. Calling someone injury prone takes into account their physical attributes as well as their playing style. Ben’s problem is that second category.

  13. crownofthehelmet says: Jun 7, 2013 3:58 PM

    @cfeeley, we can’t all be so lucky as to have a QB who checks-down after 2 seconds, avoiding the possibility of being hit. Unfortunately he also avoids the possibility of being an adequate QB.

  14. robyesno says: Jun 7, 2013 5:10 PM

    Whew! So glad none of you own or coach a team who think Bruce Gradkowski is little more than a competent upgrade or too old. He is in fact a “starting QB” that the Steelers just stole from their division rivals. “HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!!” But that being said, I’m still routing for the Steelers to lose every time against my BENGALS. WHODEY!!!!!

  15. Nofoolnodrool says: Jun 7, 2013 5:24 PM

    And nofool fell for the troll bait…
    I know big ben is a tough SOB, but he IS injury prone which means back up qb really should be a priority for the steelers. However, bringing in gradkowski as your new ‘young’ backup just makes me laugh…

    Lol, you always say something like that when called out. Hind sight is 20-20.
    As John Prine once sang ou are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t. A troll you are an unbiased homer you ain’t.

  16. raiderapologist says: Jun 7, 2013 9:32 PM

    Gradkowski is a tough little dude. It took two torn MCLs to knock him out in Oakland. He beat the Bengals and the Steelers that season.He has been beat out by a McCown brother and Tim Rattay during his career, and isn’t very good overall, but he gives it everything he’s got.

  17. bobzilla1001 says: Jun 8, 2013 10:01 AM

    I don’t see how not having Roethlisberger in the lineup has ever “cost” the Steelers the playoffs or wound up “crippling” their chances.
    In 2010, the Steelers got off to a 3-1 start in Roethlisberger’s absense, en route to Super Bowl 45. The Steelers are 6-3 the past three seasons without him.
    Not playing the right quarterback at the right time is on Tomlin. His decision last season to stick with a visibly injured Leftwich (two fractured ribs) instead of making the switch to Batch in a loss to the Ravens was inexplicable.

  18. antibenapalooza says: Jun 9, 2013 8:30 AM

    I hope he backs up Rottenberger A LOT this season.

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