The Steelers surprising acquisition of QB Zach Mettenberger

Color me surprised, but not surprised.

The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired QB Zach Mettenberger off waivers, one day following his release from the San Diego Chargers. It’s not that the Steelers went after a quarterback which surprises me, rather the events surrounding Mettenberger’s release.

A week ago, Eric Herrmann had written an article about quarterbacks who could potentially be cut from their teams by the end of the preseason: Mettenberger wasn’t on the list.

The reason he wasn’t, is that the San Diego Chargers appeared to be a fit for the former sixth round draft pick, who was also claimed off waivers in May, after the Tennessee Titans, the team which drafted him, released the QB. He was quickly acquired by the Chargers, as Zach’s former head coach in Tennessee, Ken Whisenhunt, took over as offensive coordinator in San Diego.

Yes, it looked like a match made in heaven: Mettenberger already knew Whiz’ system. He appeared ready to challenge Kellen Clemens for the backup role in SD. Clearly, he wouldn’t be cut, because he was the first QB drafted by Whisenhunt with the Titans.

Of course, the Titans were struggling as a team overall in 2014, with Jake Locker getting injured (and subsequently retiring) and also burning through backup Charlie Whitehurst as well. The team turned to Mettenberger for 6 games, none of which Zach would win. This prompted the Titans to take Marcus Mariota with the 2nd overall pick the following season.

When Mariota was injured, Mettenberger would start 4 more games in 2015, but still remained winless.

His record as a quarterback, along with his stats, largely fall on the turmoil in Tennessee. The team fired Whisenhunt midway through last season, and only won 5 total games in the 2 seasons Zach was with the team: regardless of his ability, the team couldn’t win. Period.

It appeared he would get a second chance with Whiz in San Diego, but that ship has now sailed. With the Steelers picking up Mettenberger, they add a quarterback with 10 career NFL starts and a 60.3% completion rate. The team could certainly do worse, considering Dustin Vaughan had never made a final roster in the league, and Bryn Renner has been with the team for a total of two weeks.

Vaughan’s thumb is injured, and with Renner’s lack of experience, the move was all but necessary. Bruce Gradkowski, a longtime journeyman quarterback who has been with the Steelers for several years, injured his hamstring in the team’s first preseason game. To make room for the addition of Mettenberger, Pittsburgh has placed Bruce on injured reserve, likely ending his season, and potentially his NFL career, as he has had health problems for the last two seasons.

The 25-year-old Mettenberger provides a younger, third option off the bench, but has been unimpressive in stints. He has a career 12-to-14 TD-to-INT ratio, and completed only two passes on eight attempts, with a pick, in the Chargers preseason game against his former team.

He would not play in the team’s next two preseason games, prior to his release.

The 6-foot-5, 224 pound QB arrives in time for the Steelers Thursday night game against Carolina, where Renner will likely see his last playing time before he, and Vaughan, are part of the final 53-man roster moves on Saturday.

The expectations on Mettenberger shouldn’t be high, but signals a change from last year’s emergency pickup Michael Vick. While Vick is still a free agent, he was unable to pickup the playbook fast enough to be effective in Ben Roethlisberger‘s absence.

Here’s to hoping Mettenberger won’t have that issue, and that he’ll become an afterthought who won’t get a game helmet this year, should Big Ben stay healthy all year.

5 responses to “The Steelers surprising acquisition of QB Zach Mettenberger”

  1. Chazz says:

    It wasn’t that Vick couldn’t pick up the playbook fast enough last year; It was that he sucked out loud and is/was clearly done in The NFL. Glad Tomlin learned his lesson with him.

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      He was bad, but he also had zero camp, was added days before the 3rd preseason game (much like Zach here with the 4th game) then literally got thrown into the 3rd regular season game when Ben went down, had from then (Sunday afternoon) to Thursday night to prepare to play the Ravens… played 6 quarters after being with the team about 30 days. Tough mountain to climb for any QB, let alone one who was aging and inaccurate in his career.

      • Chazz says:

        He shouldn’t have been here in the first place, as evidenced by the fact that no team in The NFL even invited him to be a part of their camp when the Steelers picked him up late last August. Should’ve been a giant red flag.

      • LAWDAWG says:

        He acquitted himself quite well during the Charger game last year. He wasn’t his old self, but he was adequate. i think Zack is a good pickup

  2. Scott Richard Perry says:

    Great insight into the Steeler’s attempt to have a back up that can get a win if Ben needs relief. If Zach is a guy that cares about NFL history he can rejoice in the fact he is joining the team currently #1 in all time wins (433) since the merger (regular season). His previous two teams enter 2016 as the pair fighting to stay or climb into the top 20 in that stat. The Chargers sit at 335 wins(.474) & Titans 334 (.470) since becoming NFL teams in 1970. Both organizations had a decent AFL decade but all each has to show for the time since is a loss after winning its only AFC title (’94 Bolts & ’99 Titans). Not sure either has high hopes for 2016 after combining for 7 wins in ’15. Looking back on the last 46 seasons the two teams both reached the top 10 in wins for the same decade in the 2000’s when Tenn was the 8th best and S.D. took #10 by a game over the Vikes.

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