PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bruce Gradkowski knew exactly what he was getting into when he signed to be the backup quarterback for the Steelers.
That's why the Pittsburgh native took the gig.
"Their goal is to win a championship," Gradkowski said. "You can talk about it all you want in those other places but here it's a reality. I'm happy to be a part of it."
Perhaps a big one.
Gradkowski worked with the starters during organized team activities at Heinz Field on Thursday, filling in for Ben Roethlisberger, who is out until training camp after undergoing minor surgery on his right knee Wednesday.
Throwing in a helmet and shorts in the rain in front of a sea of empty yellow seats in June is not the same as the chaos that erupts on the same field during the regular season. But it's a start for something that could become a reality sometime this fall.
While Roethlisberger remains one of the league's elite players at his position, he's not among the most durable. The 31-year-old has started all 16 games just once in his nine-year career. He missed three games in 2012 with a broken rib that threatened to puncture his aorta. The Steelers went 1-2 in his absence and faded to an 8-8 finish.
Roethlisberger's knee is expected to be ready when training camp opens in July, but the experience Gradkowski will receive during next week's minicamp could pay off at some point this season.
"That's the rule," Gradkowski said. "In this game you never know what's going to happen. You just have to be prepared, work hard and just wait for your time."
The 30-year-old Gradkowski's time has come — and gone — in several other stops during his seven-year career. He is 6-14 as a starter in places like Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland and Cincinnati.