The Steelers might already have their quarterback of the future. They feel they got a steal two years ago when they drafted Dennis Dixon in the fifth round, and Dixon gave them no reason for regret when he stepped in for Roethlisberger last season and nearly orchestrated an upset of the Baltimore Ravens.
Dixon is tall, mobile, strong-armed and against the Ravens he showed he can lead the team. Why in the world would the Steelers look for another developmental prospect when the arrow is still pointing up on the one they have?
Well, injury concerns for one. The No. 3 QB, Charlie Batch, has a long history of injuries, while Dixon fell to the fifth round because of a major injury in college and his spindly legs certainly don't spark any confidence in his durability.
And of course there's Roethlisberger, whose fate remains in the hands of Georgia law enforcement officials. Should Roethlisberger be charged with sexual assault, the case would likely drag through the season and he could conceivably play with the legal cloud hanging over his head. Even if he's not charged, he faces the likelihood of a one or two-game suspension.
Is this reason enough to draft a quarterback in the first round, even with the aforementioned backups?
You want to write Ledbetter off as a misinformed out-of-town writer, but Ledbetter is based in Atlanta, so if anyone has heard better information than the seemingly innocuous rumors floating around Pittsburgh about the Roethlisberger case, it would be Ledbetter. And he also picked the right quarterback. Clausen is said to be a passionate football player, a characteristic the Steelers hold in high regard.
Make no mistake, the Steelers are embarrassed by their players' offseason shenanigans, and this draft will reflect that. So Clausen, with his competitiveness and willingness to eat, sleep and drink football, would fit their requirements. But in my opinion, the Steelers aren't about to put that kind of investment into a position at which they already have a highly regarded young prospect.
Perhaps this season will provide the front office more information about Dixon, but that won't matter until next year at this time. Until then, expect the Steelers to poke through the value bin for a veteran or a late-round prospect if the Roethlisberger news gets any worse. Here are some of the names being bandied about (measurements and times courtesy of Pro Football Weekly):
* Mid rounds: The absolute earliest I can see the Steelers drafting a quarterback is Round 3, where they'd have to draft Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour (6-3.2, 230, 4.66). one site had the Steelers licking their chops over him, but I just can't see it with his average arm strength. I'm more intrigued by strong-armed John Skelton (6-5.3, 243, 4.91) of Fordham in Round 4, but have not heard of any Steelers interest, nor have I seen Skelton play.
* Late rounds: Another site reported the Steelers have shown great interest in Ole Miss's Jevan Snead (6-3, 219, 5.07), who reminds me of Bubby Brister with his strong arm. Mike Kafka (6-3.1, 225, 4.93) of Northwestern doesn't have the big arm, but he's a cagey type, as is Troy's Levi Brown (6-3.4, 229, 4.97). The Steelers went to Appalachian State to watch Armanti Edwards (5-10.7, 182, 4.43), but why draft a poor man's Antwaan Randle El when you already have the real thing?
* Free agents: The Steelers have shown interest in Bowling Green's Tyler Sheehan (6-3.1, 223, 4.8), but so have the Bengals, and Sheehan has said he'd be thrilled to land with his hometown team. Other guys who'd spark interest if they slip through undrafted are Penn State's Daryll Clark (6-1.7, 235), Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson (6-2.4, 214, 4.66) and my favorite developmental project WVU's Jarrett Brown (6-2.7, 224, 4.54).