The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to draft Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of last week’s NFL draft, seemingly putting a clock on the Ben Roethlisberger era in Steel City.
General manager Kevin Colbert said that the team valued Rudolph “as much as the rest of those quarterbacks that were drafted” in the first round of the draft and was happy to sacrifice a seventh-round pick to ensure the team got its guy in the third round.
On Tuesday, a fire apparently lit, Roethlisberger attempted to douse the flames of his presumed successor in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Well, that’s fine. He can do that,” the 36-year-old Roethlisberger said of Rudolph being his heir apparent. “But I plan on playing for three to five more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy.
“If he’s going to be their guy, that’s great, but in my perfect world it’s not going to be for a while.”
That’s a far cry from recent offseason statements by Roethlisberger, who has hinted at retirement on multiple occasions and wouldn’t commit publicly to playing past the 2017 season last year.
“I never commit to anyone more than one year,” Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazzette last May. “That’s how we always commit to this sport. If we look past this year we’re cheating ourselves and we’re cheating other people. We have to give this year everything we have because ultimately what we have is right here and right now.”
Roethlisberger’s style of play sees him prone to holding on to the ball at times, which often leads to making big plays out of busted ones. It also leads to a lot of big hits on his 6-5, 240-pound frame that has taken a beating over the years.
Despite the hits, Roethlisberger has remained relatively healthy and shown few signs of slowing down. He was selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl and sixth overall last season as the Steelers went 13-3 before losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 45-42 shootout in the divisional round of the playoffs. He threw for 4,251 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 15 starts.
So, for the Steelers, there’s little motivation to rush Roethlisberger out the door. As long as he’s healthy and productive there should be no clamoring for the Rudolph era to begin.
For Rudolph, there are worse things than collecting an NFL paycheck while developing behind one of the best in the game on a winning franchise loaded with weapons.
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