I posed this question on the a recent edition of the Steel City Underground podcast: Will drafting a QB this year help beat the Patriots?
The question might seem odd for some. Is it a "strawman" argument? Something I pulled out of thin air?
None of the above. The reason I posed this question is due to the amount of bickering on the Internet about Ben Roethlisberger's future. There's a segment of fans who are sold on taking a quarterback in this year's draft, and moreso, with the the Steelers first round pick (30th overall).
There are several reasons why focusing on a quarterback probably isn't a good idea.
Quality of QB at pick #30
We have to assume that at least one or two quarterbacks will already be gone by the time the Steelers are on the clock with the 30th overall pick of the draft.
Are you okay with taking the third quarterback in the first round?
The devil's advocate in me understands that Ben Roethlisberger was the third player taken at his position in 2004 (Eli Manning and Philip Rivers were chosen ahead of him). However, Big Ben was the eleventh overall pick that year. Only one more passer was taken in the first round that year: J. P. Losman, by the Buffalo Bills. Losman hung around the league for eight seasons but bounced around between four NFL teams with a brief appearance in the now-defunct UFL. Losman was also taken with pick 22 that year.
What if more than two quarterbacks are selected by the Steelers pick? Are you still willing to settle for the fourth or fifth best quarterback simply to make them a "first round" selection? And how well do quarterbacks beyond the first round do? (Not too well, as we've noted a few times.)
Exceptions to the rule
I get it. "Ben's going to retire!" "Ben doesn't play a full season!" "We need a replacement now!"
We've beaten this to death on episodes of the Steel City Underground Podcast. It's not going to be easy to replace a future Hall of Fame quarterback... ever. Those are big shoes to fill, and shoes which shouldn't be replaced anytime soon.
There are the exceptions which revolve around Peyton Manning and Brett Favre that are always discussed when bringing up this topic. Manning was hurt his entire last season with the Indianapolis Colts; a miserable year where the team finished 2-14.
Would you accept an awful season to possibly get another franchise quarterback by virtue of selecting higher in the draft?
The Colts took Andrew Luck. I'm going to say that has worked out okay so far, but the Colts have missed the postseason in two of their last five seasons with Luck as their starter.
The team who drafted after the Colts, the Washington Redskins, drafted Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. He's currently unemployed.
Peyton Manning was also involved in another QB turnover scenario with the Denver Broncos. After winning the Super Bowl, Manning retired, and Denver's backup plan (Brock Osweiler) signed a huge contract with the Houston Texans. They were stuck with a seventh-round pick playing quarterback in 2016 (Trevor Siemian) as well as trading up (a costly situation) to take Paxton Lynch in last year's draft (a first-round pick, who has yet to really play).
As for the Packers, they were forcing Brett Favre into retirement after having Aaron Rodgers fall into their lap with the 24th overall pick in 2005. Rodgers sat for three seasons until the Packers pulled the plug: following an overtime loss to the New Giants in the NFC Championship game.
Favre then signed with the New York Jets before landing with a division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers would go 6-10 in Rodgers first season as a starter.
How well do you think that looked for the Packers franchise at that time? Could you imagine sending Big Ben, with several seasons left in his career, to a rival team, after said quarterback had you within a game of the Super Bowl... and you then suffer a losing season, and watch the very next year as Ben takes the Bengals, Browns or Ravens to the conference title game (which Favre did with the Vikings, as the Packers lost in the Wild Card).
We all know how Rodgers' career has turned out, but what if it hadn't gone that way?
"What do the Steelers need to do to beat the Patriots?"
If I had asked this question after the AFC Championship game, would the answer have been "draft a quarterback"?
The Steelers have other priorities right now if they want to win while Ben's window of opportunity is still wide-open. Keep in mind, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell won't be getting any younger either. The team appears to be set at most positions, but I know for a fact that fans can't possibly advocate drafting a quarterback as a priority over adding more defensive pieces.
Pittsburgh needs pass rushers and additional help in the secondary. How else are you going to beat the Patriots?
Are you going to do it with an unproven rookie quarterback, who should sit the bench barring any major catastrophe to Roethlisberger (or for that matter, even Landry Jones, who would be competing for the backup spot)?
Mentioning Jones as well, he was a fourth-round pick. Even if the Steelers wait and take a quarterback later, what is the expectation? Is taking a quarterback a move that will finally reverse Pittsburgh's fortunes against New England?
No. And that's why we should stop with the nonsense catcalls begging and pleading for this team to draft one.