Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Andrew Luck’s retirement shines light on Steelers’ backup QBs |
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Kevin Gorman

The stunning, sudden retirement of Andrew Luck shook the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. To see a franchise quarterback call it quits at age 29 sent shockwaves throughout the NFL.

Luck might have terrible timing — announcing it only two weeks before the season opener — but I can’t help but applaud a football player who knows when it’s time to put his health first.

The Colts fans who booed him off the field should be ashamed for their selfish behavior. Luck has been one of the best players at his position in the game, a four-time Pro Bowl pick in six seasons. He missed the 2017 season following shoulder surgery and returned to pass for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions to lead the Colts to the AFC playoffs last season.

As for those season-ticket holders who believe they are somehow entitled to see Luck play, cry me three rivers. Luck could have just as easily been lost for the season to another injury. Luck said the constant cycle of rehabilitation and playing in pain robbed him of his love for the game.

Instead, Luck joins the likes of Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson as NFL stars who retired in their prime.

What does it mean for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

1. Power shift: The Colts were one of the AFC favorites, so Luck’s retirement could change the playoff picture before the season even starts.

It’s unfortunate for the Colts, who went 10-6 to finish second in the AFC South last season. They beat the Houston Texans in the wild card to advance to the divisional round, where they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.

If the Colts take an expected step back, the AFC North could be the primary beneficiary. After missing the playoffs last season, the Steelers are focused on winning the division title, but it could allow at least two teams from the AFC North to qualify for the postseason.

2. Value Big Ben: Now you know why the Steelers were alarmed when Ben Roethlisberger publicly flirted with the idea of retirement two years ago.

Franchise quarterbacks are rare, so finding a successor for one sends teams into a panic. The Steelers responded by drafting Mason Rudolph in the third round only a year after drafting Josh Dobbs in the fourth.

Even at age 37, Roethlisberger remains among the best quarterbacks in the game. He led the NFL in attempts, completions and yards — as well as interceptions — last year.

Luck’s retirement is a reminder to appreciate Roethlisberger’s durability. He has never missed more than four games in any of his 15 seasons.

3. Backup battle: The Colts have a need at the game’s most important position, and the Steelers have a surplus.

That places a premium on the performances of Dobbs and Rudolph. Their battle to be the backup to Big Ben takes on more importance if the Colts are interested in acquiring another quarterback.

With Jacoby Brissett, Chad Kelly and Phillip Walker at quarterback for Indianapolis, that’s a good bet.

4. Price to pay: When Luck missed the 2017 season after shoulder surgery, the Colts were forced to trade for an emergency replacement.

They traded receiver Phillip Dorsett, a former first-round pick, to the New England Patriots for Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett started 15 games and completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions as the Colts went 4-11 in those games.

That deal looks better in hindsight, given that Brissett is back to being the starter and Dorsett has 44 receptions for 484 yards and three touchdowns in 31 games over two seasons and is fighting for a roster spot with the Patriots.

5. No deal: If the Steelers are willing to deal one of their backups, they certainly would have an upper hand.

But it’s also a risky proposition.

The emergence of training camp darling Devlin Hodges has added intrigue to the backup battle. If the Steelers believe Hodges is capable of being their third quarterback, they could trade Dobbs or Rudolph.

But what if something were to happen to Roethlisberger? The Steelers have to ask themselves if they are comfortable enough with the idea of Hodges being the backup and one injury away from becoming the starter.

Having too many quarterbacks is a good problem, so you have to wonder why the Steelers would run the risk of putting their team in a position where it becomes a bad one.

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