NFL Draft: Quarterback not off the board for Steelers

April 22, 2013

In 10 of the past 12 NFL drafts, a quarterback has been the first player selected, and the results have been mixed.

For every Eli Manning, there are misses such as David Carr or Jamarcus Russell to balance things out.

With less than a week to go before this year’s draft, which will be held Thursday through Saturday, it doesn’t appear that another quarterback will be added to the lengthy list of players at that position who were taken first overall.

The Steelers hold eight selections in the seven-round draft, including the 17th selection in the first round. While general manager Kevin Colbert isn’t ruling out taking a quarterback, it’s highly unlikely that position player will be selected in the first round.

Ben Roethlisberger returns for his 10th season, but 2012’s backups Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are gone. The Steelers added Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski as a backup in free agency, and the No. 3 position is held by John Parker Wilson, who has never thrown an NFL pass.

With Roethlisberger now 31, the Steelers have to start looking at the position.

“We’re open to drafting any position in any round, including quarterback,” Colbert said at the NFL Draft Combine.

The problem this year is a lack of top-tier talent at the NFL’s most important position.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith is the best of the bunch after a stellar career for the Mountaineers that he capped by completing 71 percent of his passes for 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2012.

Smith could be selected as high as third by Oakland, or drop into the teens before he is picked. It’s doubtful he will still be available when the Steelers make their first pick.

Southern California’s Matt Barkley, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse, Mike Glennon of North Carolina State and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas represent the second tier of quarterbacks, with one or two players in that group possibly sneaking into the end of the first round.

Each of those players have strengths and weaknesses.

“E.J. Manuel is a guy that I thought had a solid Senior Bowl week and played really well in the game,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “(Glennon) might have the best arm talent in the draft, and I didn’t see it at the Senior Bowl.”

It’s likely that in a quarterback-starved league, those players will be selected in the first three rounds.

That could leave the Steelers with some interesting prospects in later rounds if they choose to take a quarterback.

In the middle rounds, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones or Tennessee’s Tyler Bray could draw Pittsburgh’s attention.

Two players who the Steelers have shown some interest in are Sean Renfree of Duke and Tulane’s Ryan Griffin.

Renfree was a three-year starter at Duke and the fifth-year senior was unable to work out at the combine because of a pectoral muscle injury.

“I don’t understand why he’s not more highly rated,” said Mayock. “I watched three tapes of his. ... He does not have big-arm talent, but his anticipation and accuracy are outstanding. I think he’s going to be a fifth-round guy who is going to surprise people.”

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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