How Important Is A First Round QB? Plenty For Pittsburgh! - By Neal Coolong
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|The only solace to be found in watching another Super Bowl involving the New England Patriots is looking at how their losing opponent got there. From a 1-15 season that everyone is now well-aware of to the Super Bowl in two years through smart decisions. Looking at Jake Delhomme and Tom Brady in that game, you saw two guys from nowhere, thus proving that perhaps, today, the marquee quarterback isn't necessary for a Super Bowl. But it sure is to stay consistent.
Yes. Peyton Manning hasn't won a ring. He's been in the playoffs more often than not, and shares an MVP with fellow first round quarterback Steve McNair.
Donovan McNabb has been as frustratingly close to the big game as anyone. I think most GMs would take McNabb over Delhomme.
While it may read well to write that teams are looking away from the stud quarterback of the draft to more lesser-known but just as respected positions (defensive and offensive line), a pure signal caller is still needed. Pittsburgh is clearly into that case, but a lot of what they do in April's draft is going to go by what the 10 teams ahead of them are going to do.
I have reached two, hard incontrivertible facts when looking at the first pick and the quarterbacks of free agency:
1. San Diego has a stupider front office than Jessica Simpson if they pass on Eli Manning.
2. None of the free agent quarterbacks (Kurt Warner, Tim Couch, Jeff Garcia and Drew Bledsoe) look to go away from their teams, and Brunell is way to friggen old (as is Bledsoe for that matter) for Pittsburgh. Let me rehash Pittsburgh's situation:
A. Tommy Maddox is not the answer for the future.
B. Neither is Charlie Batch or Brian St. Pierre.
C. While they do have obvious holes in their offensive line, the quarterback is the cornerstone of a team, and without someone young with potential, Pittsburgh could find themselves at a 5-11/4-12 mark in a hurry with one injury.
D. It is a debate between looking ahead for the future vs. drafting to compete now.
They don't have a bright future in the quarterback, running game and offensive line. This dilemma doesn't worry me too much considering Pittsburgh's two best players (Joey Porter 3rd and Kendrell Bell 2nd) were not first round picks. The Steelers have a history of great drafts, but those drafts do not involve quarterbacks.
Of the 18 quarterbacks Pittsburgh has drafted since 1967, only Bradshaw (first overall in 1970) and Mark Malone (24th overall in 1980) were taken in the first round and only three were taken in the second round (Kordell, who I still think was taken as a WR, in 1995, Mike Kruczek in 1976 and Terry Hanratty in 1969). Only Stewart started. In fact, of those 18 drafted, only Kordell, Neil O'Donnell (1990, third round), Bubby Brister (1986, third round), and Cliff Stoudt (5th round, 1977) ever started a game for Pittsburgh.
My point? They rely on the free agent market for their QB. In the times In my day, I've seen Mark Malone, Brister, O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jeff Graham, Kordell and Maddox start. Only half of those were drafted by Pittsburgh. And none of them were any good for more than two years. My point again? Since they haven't invested in a franchise quarterback since 1970 (I needn't remind you of the success they've had with that quarterback that decade), maybe it's time to say "let's take one step back to take two steps forward." Taking someone like Phillip Rivers will hurt their immediate needs, but of Pittsburgh's second and third round selections outside of the quarterback position, they produced 14 pro bowlers (Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Dermontti Dawson, Carnell Lake, Eric Green, Levon Kirkland, Joel Steed, Chad Brown, Jason Gildon, Bam Morris, Hines Ward, Joey Porter and Kendrell Bell) along with Antwaan Randle-El, probably the second-best return man in the league right now. Blount, Ham and Lambert are in the Hall of Fame, and Dawson soon will be as well. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has already pledged his undying devotion to the running game, for better or worse. This is a possible mark looking in the direction of Oregon State's Steven Jackson. Not to mention the club announcing Jerome Bettis will take a paycut and reduced playing time if he's going to put No. 36 on in Pittsburgh, and Amos Zereoue is all but released.
A quick look over Super Bowl champions with the exception of Tampa Bay in 2002 or Baltimore in 2000 (both freak defenses with little else), you will see teams succeeding in the running game largely because of a solid quarterback. Would Emmitt Smith have been as successful without Troy Aikman? I doubt it. Would Marshall Faulk have been what he was in the Rams championship season without Warner. Not likely. It is a pass-to-set-up-the-run league right now, and considering the receiving talent of Ward, Plaxico Burress and 'Twaan along with TEs Jay Riemersma and Jerame Tuman, getting a quarterback who can run up a 85 rating or higher would bring them back into league contention. It's not like they haven't proved to find adequate talent in the second and third rounds. Because of that, I have faith they can shore up their offensive line and running game along with providing depth in the secondary. I just hope they solidify their future in the first round.