AFC North backup QB outlook

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
10:02
AM ET
You're not going to see a lot of the starting quarterbacks in Thursday's preseason finales. Some starters won't play at all. It's a smart move because the last thing you want is to get your quarterback hurt in a game that's primarily for the fringe players trying to make a roster.

The preseason finale will feature extended looks at the backup quarterbacks, too. Here's how the safety nets at the game's most important position are shaping up heading into the final preseason game:

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Backup battle: This is the one place in the division where there really isn't one. Bruce Gradkowski will be the backup. In fact, he'll be the only quarterback on the roster besides starter Andy Dalton. Gradkowski has had another solid preseason, throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 97.9 quarterback rating.

Who should win: Going way out on a limb and say Gradkowski.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Backup battle: Colt McCoy really separated himself from Seneca Wallace in the third preseason game. McCoy went 7-of-9 for 74 yards and one touchdown. Wallace completed 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards and one interception. Head coach Pat Shurmur named McCoy the starter for Thursday night.

Who should win: While some still think McCoy is getting traded to Green Bay, I see him staying in Cleveland. He's proven to be better than Wallace and he's cheaper to keep than Wallace.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Backup battle: Curtis Painter has outplayed incumbent Tyrod Taylor this preseason. Painter, who played under quarterback coach Jim Caldwell in Indianapolis last season, has completed 54.1 percent of his passes, throwing four touchdowns and one interception for a rating of 95.2. Taylor has connected on less than half of his throws (47.9 percent) with two touchdowns and one interception for a 70.5 rating.

Who should win: If this competition is based on performance, Painter would win based on the preseason. I'm still going with Taylor, who has been the better quarterback in practice. The Ravens coaching staff won't be able to forget the numerous interceptions thrown by Painter in training camp.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Backup battle: The Steelers are in the best backup quarterback situation in the division with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, two veteran quarterbacks who can win games when Ben Roethlisberger gets hurt. The Steelers let Charlie Batch take over for Roethlisberger in Week 2 and he completed 7 of 10 passes for 84 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger last week and he went 5 of 8 for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

Who should win: Leftwich clearly won the job with his preseason performance last week. It looks like this could be the end for Batch. This is his 11th season with the Steelers, which is the second-longest current tenure of any quarterback with one team behind Tom Brady.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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