Starkey: Steelers know — Tebow belongs in NFL

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) sits on the bench near backup quarterback Tim Tebow earlier this season.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) sits on the bench near backup quarterback Tim Tebow earlier this season.
Photo by AP
| Thursday, June 6, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

Throwing out Tim Tebow's name figured to generate some interesting reactions among the Steelers this week — and no, the topic had nothing to do with Ben Roethlisberger's minor knee surgery.

I'm not sure Tebow's a quarterback, anyway, though I know he's better than at least half the backups in the NFL. I know he can help a team in some way, shape or form.

Who could speak to that better than the Steelers?

I wondered if players were surprised that Tebow had yet to find a team since the New York Jets cut him a month ago.

I also wondered if they'd welcome him here, even knowing the chance of that happening is about as good as Mike Tomlin calling HBO to invite “Hard Knocks” to Latrobe.

So, Larry Foote, would The Tebow Show fly in Pittsburgh?

“If (GM) Kevin Colbert says so, I'm all for it.”


“Why not?” he said. “Tebow, just from what I see, is an awesome guy and a talent.”

Other players weren't quite as eager to talk about Tebow when asked if they were surprised he's out of work.

“I don't know,” said cornerback Ike Taylor. “That's on him. My name's Ike.”

“I don't really care about that,” said defensive end Brett Keisel, referring to Tebow and not that Taylor's name is indeed Ike. “I'm not really surprised.”

Foote had a different take.

“He won some games, had some success,” Foote said. “We know it first-hand. I think he should be somewhere at least competing for a job. I think he's earned that.”

No reasonable thinker would peg Tebow a starter. But nobody can convince me he's not good enough to be a backup or perhaps to play another position, given that he stands 6-foot-3, 236 pounds and has a knack for running the ball.

Look around the league, and you see the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Dominique Davis and B.J. Coleman working as No. 2 quarterbacks. JaMarcus Russell is getting a tryout, for goodness sake. You're telling me there's no place for a guy who went 7-4 two years ago and beat the Steelers in a playoff game?

“The ultimate goal out here is to win, and he won football games, so I'm a little surprised,” said Steelers backup Bruce Gradkowski. “But I know how it is. It happened to me. I was on the streets for a while. I think something will break for him, but it's a tough business.”

When pressed, Taylor and Keisel acknowledged a grudging respect for Tebow, who, of course, beat the Steelers in a playoff game two years ago by throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns. I asked each if they considered him to be a decent player.

“Tim Tebow is real decent,” Taylor said. “But (his future) isn't up to me. You gotta ask the owners and coaches and GMs. As far as being a competitor, he's one of the best competitors I've seen.”

“He beat us. You have to give him credit for that,” Keisel said. “I think he'll get another shot.”

It's fairly obvious why Tebow hasn't gotten another shot. Foote laughed when he spoke to it, but his words rang true: “You guys are the reason he's not in the league. It's your fault.”

That really is the most logical explanation. Not that all of us media types are at fault. Most of us, for example, didn't have anything to do with a certain outlet celebrating Tebow's birthday by way of a television special.

If you know NFL coaches and general managers, you know they are among the most paranoid people on earth. Do you think many of them would want to put up with the media monstrosity that is Tebow?

If he were a star, sure. He's a role player, at best.

Still, I would argue that in certain situations, Tebow's presence might actually help by deflecting attention away from other matters. I also happen to believe he could help a team win, whether as an H-back or a backup quarterback, and that he'd thrive in the right environment — which New York certainly was not.

Pittsburgh could be one of those environments, but it won't be the place for Tebow.

Will anywhere?

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