Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC North [Print without images]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Steelers upgrade at backup quarterback

By Jamison Hensley

The Steelers upgraded their backup quarterback spot by agreeing to terms on a three-year contract with Bruce Gradkowski, according to NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Pittsburgh wanted to get younger at that spot after Charlie Batch (38 years old) and Byron Leftwich (33) both struggled filling in for Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers were able to do that with Gradkowski, who turned 30 in January, and didn't sacrifice on experience. Gradkowski has played seven years in the NFL and this is his third stop in the AFC North after a short stint in Cleveland and a two-year run as Andy Dalton's backup in Cincinnati.

With Gradkowski, the Steelers aren't expected to bring back Batch or Leftwich, both of whom are free agents. Batch completed his 11th year in Pittsburgh, which is the second-longest current tenure of any quarterback with the same team after Tom Brady.

This was a move the Steelers had to make, especially after Batch and Leftwich combined for one touchdown and five interceptions last season.

Gradkowski is a better backup than his 6-14 record as a starter would indicate. Two years ago, Gradkowski led the Bengals to a come-from-behind win over the Browns after replacing an injured Dalton. Last preseason, Gradkowski threw three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 96.0 passer rating.

The backup quarterback position is an important one for Pittsburgh considering Roethlisberger's history. Roethlisberger has missed five games over the past five seasons because of an injury. He was sidelined three games last year with a shoulder/rib injury and missed a game in 2011 because of an ankle injury.