Only Projects Need Apply in Pittsburgh

The Steelers might be getting older at quarterback, but the position remains a team strength.

Ben Roethlisberger's just getting his toes wet as a middle-aged pro football player, so his position is far from a need for the Pittsburgh Steelers in this coming draft.

Roethlisberger turned 29 last month, and his top backup, Byron Leftwich, turned 31 in January. The Steelers' only free agent concern at the position is Dennis Dixon, who could be had for a fifth-rounder in restricted free agency if the Steelers fail to match an offer once the NFL gets its business house in order. But even then, the Steelers could replace Dixon with Charlie Batch, who'll turn 37 in December but proved last season that he's still effective coming off the bench.

So what interest would the Steelers have in one of the worst quarterback crops to hit the April draft season in years?

Well, there are the projects, such as Jerrod Johnson, and the potential wildcat-type position switchers such as Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor (6-0.6, 217, 4.52) has drawn "strong interest" from the Steelers, according to his agent, and it's assumed they like his athleticism more than his passing ability.

A four-year starter at Virginia Tech who won't turn 22 until August, Taylor is a bit short and compounds the problem with a low release point, but he was a team captain who's praised for his strong character and who did complete 57 percent of his throws. He also rushed for 2,196 yards (4.4 avg.) throughout his career and could be viewed as a potential return man, slot receiver, and/or red-zone quarterback.

Johnson (6-5.1, 251, 4.77) grabbed the attention of scouts two seasons back with his brilliant Thanksgiving night performance for Texas A&M against Texas, but he lost his job after seven games last season when he not only played poorly but did so with mechanics that grew worse with time.

A team captain who's expected to enjoy a future as a coach, the former A&M two-sport performer (also played basketball) might even carve out an NFL career as a tight end, but Johnson isn't expected to be drafted.

Another potential free-agent candidate for the Steelers is Delaware's Pat Devlin (6-3.3, 225, 4.88), who in 2008 came off the bench to help Penn State beat Ohio State. But Devlin couldn't wrest the job from Daryll Clark and transferred to the Division I-AA Mud Hens. He led Delaware to the national championship game last season, but performed poorly in the East-West Shrine Game and then had a disastrous Pro Day that resulted in his plummet down/off draft boards.

Greg McElroy (6-1.7, 220, 4.89) posted a 24-3 career record at Alabama and appears perfectly suited for an NFL backup job due to his leadership skills, solid character and instincts as a field general. However, it's unlikely the Steelers would be interested in another backup quarterback unless one is available in the seventh round or later.

Value Board

Sixth round – Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech.

Favorite late-round sleeper: Greg McElroy, Alabama.


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