- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Drafting Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones means the end of Charlie Batch's lengthy run with the Steelers. To suggest the Steelers are grooming Jones to replace Ben Roethlisberger in a couple of years is wrong.
But that didn't stop Batch from speculating it.
"(U)ltimately, I think this isn't about replacing me," Batch told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Big picture, maybe they're thinking, 'Can we develop Landry Jones to be the starter? Maybe two years from now, he could be our guy for the next 10 years.' We don't know. But with the contracts for quarterbacks these days, he'd certainly be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ben at age 34 or 35 or 36."
No, this was about replacing Batch and Byron Leftwich. The Steelers knew it was time to get younger at the backup quarterback spot. General manager Kevin Colbert didn't use a fourth-round pick on a quarterback thinking he was going to be the starter in Pittsburgh in 2015. This isn't like the Green Bay Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005, when they had a 36-year-old Brett Favre.
Batch will likely be proven wrong by this time next year. Roethlisberger, 31, is in line for a new contract because his salary-cap number in 2014 is nearly $19 million. That deal could ensure that Roethlisberger ends his career as a Steeler.
It's hard to accuse the Steelers of thinking about life after Roethlisberger when they're doing so many things to extend his career. They've invested two picks in the first and second rounds into their offensive line to better protect him. They're also trying to go to a more short passing game to limit the amount of hits on him.
Of course, Roethlisberger's style of play doesn't lend him to age as well as Peyton Manning. But it's not like Roethlisberger is showing any signs of slowing down with his play. He threw 17 touchdowns and four interceptions last season before getting injured.
So why did the Steelers draft Jones? It's definitely an investment. If Roethlisberger would suffer a career-ending injury, the Steelers would be in better shape for the future having a young quarterback like Jones over an aging veteran like Batch or Leftwich. The Patriots selected Ryan Mallett in the third round in 2011, when Tom Brady was 33, and it's not like New England is preparing to make a change in quarterback anytime soon. In fact, the Patriots are looking to trade Mallett for a second-round pick.
While many have been giving their opinion on whether Jones will eventually replace Roethlisberger, I find it fascinating that the Steelers drafted Jones in the first place. The Steelers used the 115th overall pick on a quarterback they didn't have any contact with until they called him on the phone Saturday to let him know he was their selection. Colbert acknowledged there's a chance Jones "will never play" for Pittsburgh, but he didn't want to pass up one of the most accomplished passers in NCAA history.
"When you have a franchise QB like we do, you don't get a lot of opportunities to add a young quarterback into the mix," Colbert said. "It's a critical position. You better keep adding young folks to that spot."