Ranking Best QB Options for Steelers After Roethlisberger, Leftwich Injuries

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst INovember 19, 2012

Ranking Best QB Options for Steelers After Roethlisberger, Leftwich Injuries

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers may have to turn to the free-agent scrap heap of quarterbacks because of injuries to both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich

    Roethlisberger (SC joint, ribs) isn't likely to be available for another two to three weeks, and a report Monday morning has the Steelers possibly without Leftwich for a period of time too. 

    According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Steelers are concerned that Leftwich (ribs) will also miss some time after getting banged up in Pittsburgh's 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night. La Canfora also added that the team will likely work out quarterbacks this week, as 37-year-old Charlie Batch remains as the lone healthy option. 

    In the following slides, we break down the top quarterback options for the Steelers following the injury news to both Roethlisberger and Leftwich. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Josh Johnson

    The former wonderkid of Jim Harbaugh was cut after he couldn't beat out Scott Tolzien in San Francisco this past August. He's 6'3" and has some athletic ability. 


    Brian Hoyer

    Hoyer has limited experience (just 43 NFL attempts), including just one attempt since 2010. But there is some talent here that the Steelers could mold both in 2012 and beyond.


    Vince Young

    He's blown every opportunity handed to him, and an awful preseason showing in Buffalo has kept him out of the league. But Young does have special athletic tools and starting experience, which gives him a chance. 


    Seneca Wallace

    Wallace has 21 career starts and a 31-18 career touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's 32 years old and just 5'11", but the Steelers could do worse. 


    Mike Kafka

    A former fourth-round pick, Kafka showed some flashes during a brief stint behind Michael Vick in Philadelphia. But he has a very limited arm, which would handicap the Steelers' vertical passing game. 

5. Tyler Palko

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    Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk mentioned Palko as an option for the Steelers to work out, if for no other reason than Palko has experience running Todd Haley's offense. From an X's and O's standpoint, the fit makes sense. 

    However, Palko was nothing short of awful in eight career appearances with the Chiefs, throwing for 831 yards and two touchdowns against seven interceptions. His passer rating currently sits at 60.7. 

    A quick study in the offense is important in any decision like this one, but sacrificing quality for a general knowledge of the playbook doesn't sound like a trade off the Steelers should make in this scenario. 

4. Dennis Dixon

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    Dixon signed with the Ravens practice squad last week, but that doesn't make him off-limits for the Steelers. Practice squad players can be signed by other teams, and Dixon told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun that the Steelers were interested in him before he signed on with the Ravens. 

    "I believe so," Dixon said. "My agent has gone back and forth with them. I's a different situation, but it is what it is. I'm happy to be here."

    Dixon is a former Steelers backup who started a game against the Ravens in 2009, a 20-17 loss. He spent three years in Pittsburgh from 2008-10, obviously before Haley entered the offensive picture for the Steelers. 

    He may not have a familiarity of the offense, but Dixon knows the team and can be had off a rival's practice squad. It's a transaction the Steelers have to think about this week. 

3. Troy Smith

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    Smith spent six months with the Steelers this past year before the team cut him in July. The re-signings of Leftwich and Batch paved the way for his dismissal, but at least he has an understanding of the workings inside the organization. 

    The former Heisman Trophy winner also has experience starting games in the NFL as recently as in 2010. He played in six games for the San Francisco 49ers that season, throwing five touchdowns and four interceptions in relief of Alex Smith. 

    Smith may not be a perfect option, but he has a recent history with the team that would likely be comforting. For a week or two, Smith makes sense to bring back.

2. Jerrod Johnson

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    If the Steelers want to young and stay in-house, there's likely no better option than Johnson. The former Texas A&M quarterback spent the entire preseason with Pittsburgh and posted the team's highest passer rating during the exhibition schedule (136.2). 

    He's only 24, without even a sniff of regular season NFL experience, but Johnson knows Haley's system and showed some flashes this preseason. He's also tall (6'5"), athletic and a player the Steelers could continue building down the road. 

    Johnson is certainly not the best option for a short fill-in option, but he could hold his own as the team's backup while the top of the depth chart gets healthy.

1. David Garrard

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    In terms of stop-gap answers, the Steelers really can't do any better than veteran David Garrard. 

    While the 34-year-old hasn't played since 2010, he does have extensive starting experience and appears to finally be healthy again. According to Jason La Canfora, Garrard has healthy knees with no swelling after offseason surgery. 

    The Steelers have balked at the idea of adding Garrard in the past, so maybe the franchise doesn't like the fit. But for a one- or two-week trial, the Steelers can't get a better option that a guy who has thrown 89 touchdowns against just 54 interceptions and has a career passer rating of 85.8.