The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger have a new backup option at quarterback. Bruce Gradkowski, who was a backup for the Cincinnati Bengals (2011-12), has been signed as of today. Gradkowski has always loved the Steelers; he even dreamed about playing for them one day as a native of the Pittsburgh area. With Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich both listed as unrestricted free agent, the only quarterback the Steelers have listed behind Roethlisberger is fourth-year John Wilson, who the Steelers signed off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A former Seton LaSalle High School and Toledo (college) player, Gradkowski has great size. He stands 6 feet, 2 inches and weighs 222 pounds. He also has experience. Gradkowski was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft and spent two years with the team. Late into the 2008 season, Gradkowski spent time with the Cleveland Browns before being waived at the end of the NFL season. He then spent three years with the Oakland Raiders before going to Cincinnati.
While he was in Oakland, Gradkowski led the Raiders to victory over the Steelers at Heinz Field. Gradkowski threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns that day. With nine seconds left in regulation, he threw the game winning touchdown pass. Gradkowski told Steelers.com, "Words can't even express that game". He said that the Raiders were struggling that season, but they "knew [they] were in for a fight and it was a great battle".
Gradkowski is ready to do everything he can for the Steelers in 2013. He loves Pittsburgh and he loves the fact that Steelers fans love football. "For me to be a part of this," Gradkowski said, "I will do anything I can to help us win and get better each and every day." He explained his signing as a blessing from God. "It's a blessing to be home and experience a winning tradition, a Super Bowl tradition. That is what makes me excited."
Bruce and Debbie Gradkowski, Bruce's parents, were completely taken off guard when he showed up at their home on Tuesday night. He and his wife, Miranda, are expecting their first child in April and Gradkowski admitted to the team, who usually set free agent visitors up with lodging, that his parents would be disappointed if he didn't stay at their Pittsburgh-area home. His parents were just as surprised when Gradkowski admitted that he was in town to possibly sign a contract with the Steelers. "My mom cried, she cries at everything," said Gradkowski.
Gradkowski is looking forward to learning from both Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. His plan is to immediately get to know the playbook and learn the offensive system. "I am going to support Ben [Roethlisberger] and do what I can to be prepared," Gradkowski admitted. "In the meantime whatever I can do to help this team get better I will do."
709 attempts, 375 completions, 4,057 yards, 21 touchdowns, longest pass 75T. His best career was his rookie season with the Buccaneers (2006). His second best was with the Raiders (2009).
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