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Tomlin, Steelers prepping for life after Roethlisberger

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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By the start of training camp, we might look back at Ben Roethlisberger's retire-or-not-to-retire waffling as a silly storyline, a manufactured Favrian imitation, short on suspense and void of intrigue.

But in Pittsburgh, Steelers brass is taking Big Ben's hints at retirement as, if not a serious threat, a sign that it's time to evaluate the quarterback position.

In an interview with NFL Network's Judy Battista that will air on Wednesday during Up To The Minute, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Pittsburgh is "proceeding" as if Roethlisberger is going to play for the organization in 2017 and noted he doesn't "spend a lot of time dwelling on it." But he added that doesn't preclude the Steelers from looking at acquiring a quarterback of the distant future.

When asked if Pittsburgh has been considering Life After Ben (L.A.B.), Tomlin responded, "I think we've been in that mindset for the last several years, that's what this business tells us to be in. We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what's available to us or potentially available to us, that's just due diligence. So yes, we have."

Tomlin added, "I think because of (Roethlisberger's) durability and how he plays, I don't know that we have that level of urgency, but we are taking ourselves mentally through the process. Not an easy one, obviously, but it is what it is. It's an element of the business. Guys can't play forever and he acknowledges that and we acknowledge that."

Big Ben's superhuman durability has masked the reality that the lumbering QB has incurred a laundry list of injuries throughout his career, his latest one a foot ailment that limited him down the stretch in 2016. With Roethlisberger approaching his age-36 season and whispering about retirement, it's only natural that Pittsburgh would look to secure a legitimate franchise quarterback to take up his mantle.

The Steelers haven't drafted a quarterback since 2013 when they selected Landry Jones in the fourth round. Still on the roster as Big Ben's backup, Jones hasn't quite inspired, at least not to the point where the Pittsburgh front office would feel comfortable handing him the reins.

So are Tomlin's comments a sign that Pittsburgh will draft their next franchise quarterback in 2017? Aside from Roethlisberger in '04, the Steelers haven't selected a QB in the first two rounds since 1995 when Pittsburgh drafted Kordell Stewart.

But with some mocks projecting this year's crop of top signal-callers to drop to the back or out of the first round, this just might be the year that Pittsburgh invests heavily in a Roethlisberger replacement.

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