Pittsburgh Steelers Re-Sign Bruce Gradkowski, OLB James Harrison Announces He Will Play This Season Via Instagram
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have re-signed quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to a one-year deal on May 2. Gradkowski is happy to be back with the Steelers after missing the entire season last year with finger and shoulder injuries.
We have re-signed QB Bruce Gradkowski to a one-year contract.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 2, 2016
“It’s great to be back. I have been here the last three years, I see what we have going on. We are so close. We have the talent. It’s exciting. You feel it in the air. This is where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I just want to win a Super Bowl. I am excited to be back. There are a lot of good guys in the locker room, a great team. You want to stay around that. Anything I can do to help, I will do.”
Gradkowski worked out for the Steelers earlier this offseason. General manager Kevin Colbert deemed Gradkowski’s performance satisfactory, but he still decided to wait until after the draft to sign the 33-year-old. The 11-year veteran is considered a quality backup due to the way he has handled his role throughout his career. He also knows the Steelers’ offense extremely well, and has a good rapport with starter Ben Roethlisberger, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Gradkowski has only appeared in one game since joining the team in 2013, as Roethlisberger had been quite healthy. However, Roethlisberger, 34, missed four games last year, and the Steelers went 2-2 in those games.
In fact, Gradkowski has not thrown a pass since 2012, when he completed 5-of-11 attempts for 65 yards in two contests for the Cincinnati Bengals. Gradkowski has appeared in 37 games for his career, which includes 20 starts. The former sixth round draft choice, who is 6-14 as a starter, has a career completion percentage of 52.9 and has thrown for 4,059 yards. He does have more career interceptions (24) than touchdowns (21). Gradkowski has also played for Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and Oakland, in addition to the Bengals and Steelers.
Gradkowski is expected to battle Landry Jones in training camp for the right backup Roethlisberger. Jones is entering his fourth and final year of his rookie contract. The 27-year-old appeared in a total of seven games last year with mixed results.
Jones was fabulous in Pittsburgh’s Week Six come-from-behind (25-13) victory over the Arizona Cardinals as the Steelers scored 22 points with him behind center, after replacing Mike Vick in the third quarter. Jones finished the game, completing 8-of-12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns along with no interception.
Jones struggled as starter the following week, his first-ever NFL start, against the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones completed 16-of-29 passes for 209 yards and one touchdown, as well as two interceptions. He finished the season completing 58.2 percent (32-for-55) of his passes for 513 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions.
The big question is, if Jones is beat out by Gradkowski for the backup role, will he be with the team next year?
The answer is maybe, but the Steelers do like to keep three quarterbacks on their roster. Jones’ completion percentage is not much below the 60 percent mark, which is considered to be the benchmark for accuracy among quarterbacks, and averaged 9.33 yard per attempt – he completed 11-of-22 pass attempts of 10 or more yards. Plus, Dustin Vaughn is the only other quarterback on the roster.
Vaughn, 25, earned a spot with the Dallas Cowboys as their third round choice after going undrafted out of West Texas A&M in 2014. After getting cut by the Cowboys in 2015, he signed with the Buffalo Bills, but was released a month later from their practice squad. The Steelers signed him to a futures contract on January 22.
In other news, OLB James Harrison announced that he is returning to the team for a 14th season on his Instagram account. Harrison, 38, is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro. He is slated to make $1.5 million this season, according to Pro Football Weekly.
Harrison recorded five sacks and 40 tackles last season.
[Photo by Gene J. Pushkar/Associated Press]