<
>

10 things Steelers fans should know about Jimmy Garoppolo

5/14/2015

In honor of No. 10 Jimmy Garoppolo replacing the suspended Tom Brady for the Sept. 10 opener against the Steelers, here are 10 things Steelers fans should know about the second-year quarterback.

1) Garoppolo will make $34,021 in Week 1 -- with the chance to make much more in the future

Garoppolo is scheduled to make $578,359 next season, which breaks down to $136,084 over the four-game stretch he's expected to start save a Brady appeal win.

After that, Garoppolo might not play significant snaps for the duration of his four-year contract that ends in 2017. Brady still has at least a few good years left, and Garoppolo has limited reps to balloon his current NFL stat line of 182 passing yards and a touchdown.

His performance against Pittsburgh is about winning for the Patriots, but from a contractual standpoint it's about 2017 money, which is incentive to play well.

2) Garoppolo 'looks like a linebacker'

Garoppolo's 6-2, 225-pound frame sounds like the average NFL quarterback's build. But Garoppolo played linebacker at Rolling Hills (Ill.) High School. Apparently Bill Belichick has noticed his tendencies for the position.

"I talked to Bill (Belichick) at the combine, and I asked him how Jimmy was doing," said Jeff Christensen, Garoppolo's quarterback coach before the draft, to WEEI.com in April. "He said (Jimmy) looks like a linebacker. He works out like a linebacker. He acts like a linebacker. I really like him a lot, coach. You did a great job with him. Thank you.' ”

3) He's a higher NFL draft pick than any Steelers quarterback since Ben Roethlisberger

The Patriots and Steelers have had franchise quarterbacks for more than a decade, but the Patriots took Garoppolo No. 62 overall last year.

Since taking Roethlisberger No. 11 overall in the 2004 draft, the Steelers' highest quarterback selection is Landry Jones in the fourth round, 115 overall, two years ago

The 37-year-old Brady has four years on Roethlisberger, so the Patriots took a calculated risk on a developmental quarterback with higher upside than most mid-round guys.

4) He's a no-huddle, spread offense disciple

Garoppolo played for Dino Babers, who was an assistant for Baylor coach Art Briles and employed similar offensive principles at Eastern Illinois.

In 2013, Garoppolo threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns in an offense that emphasized accuracy and quick decisions.

Spread offenses are punching bags for NFL types that prefer quarterback prospects playing from the pocket, but Babers told me before last year's draft that if Garoppolo wasn't a first-rounder, the teams that passed on him would regret it.

5) Disguising blitzes crucial against Garoppolo

Because he was comfortable throwing the ball quickly in college, and because New England's offense will design plays for that skill set, the Steelers must find creative ways to manufacture pressure off the edge.

The Steelers ranked 26th in sacks last season with 33, but new coordinator Keith Butler has a chance to confuse the second-year player with a variety of looks.

6) He knows how to embrace the big stage.

That's because he did so during the 2014 Senior Bowl, using his steady play during the week to elevate himself as a top-five quarterback in the draft class.

Many evaluators maintained Garoppolo was barely a top 10 quarterback before Senior Bowl week, which he used to surpass AJ McCarron in the line. McCarron, who declined Senior Bowl participation, was a fifth-round pick by the Bengals.

7) He has AFC North respect

At least two offensive coaches scouting for an AFC North team last year felt Garoppolo was one of the best quarterbacks available in the draft.

The Browns privately worked out Garoppolo in April 2014, and the Bengals were about a three-plus-hour drive from the EIU campus. Certainly the Steelers did their homework, too.

8) He's considered a good schematic fit for New England

At Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo released the ball quickly “on an assortment of catch-and-throw plays designed to distribute the ball to his playmakers on short and intermediate ranges,” wrote NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

New England also does this well.

9) He'll be expected to perform

The last time a Brady backup logged extended snaps, Matt Cassel guided the Patriots to an 11-5 season.

The Patriots return a top-shelf offensive line, several key playmakers and a defense that lost a few parts but usually reloads.

The onus will be on Garoppolo to flash more than potential.

10) Garoppolo vs. new Steelers DBs will be matchup to watch

The Steelers drafted corners Senquez Golson and Doran Grant to create turnovers -- they combined for 15 turnovers in college last season -- and to combat offenses moving downfield with the short-to-intermediate game, which is Garoppolo's strength.

Golson, a second-round pick, is best utilized as a zone corner in space, using his vision to make plays. The Steelers grabbed Grant in the fourth round for his tackling, toughness and playmaking. But expect Garoppolo to test the 5-foot-9 Golson and 5-foot-10 Grant by throwing to bigger receivers toward the middle of the field.