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Big Ben: Rudolph era won't begin for '3 to 5 years'

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When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft last weekend, it appeared that Pittsburgh was finally selecting the heir to Ben Roethlisberger.

After all, Pittsburgh's confidence in Rudolph is well-documented now -- Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said Rudolph was considered by Pittsburgh in "the group of the top quarterbacks" -- and Big Ben, 36, isn't getting any younger.

But the future Hall of Fame quarterback put a halt Tuesday to talk of Rudolph succeeding him in the next two to three years.

"Well, that's fine. He can do that," Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Rudolph eventually taking the reins under center. "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."

Roethlisberger did hedge his desire to play half a decade more, adding that he'll still evaluate the length of his career year by year.

"I'll still take it one year at a time and give it everything I have that one year," Roethlisberger added, "but that's what I felt comfortable in telling [the front office]."

A chronic retirement-waffler, this is the first time Big Ben has said outright that he sees himself playing into his 40s. If Roethlisberger plays another five years, he will be 41 at retirement; Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be 41 by this season's kickoff.

Rudolph is the latest in a short line of quarterbacks selected at the tail-end of Big Ben's career who could be considered his heir apparent. The Oklahoma State product joins a QB room already populated by 2013 fourth-round pick Landry Jones and 2017 fourth-rounder Joshua Dobbs, both of whom have combined for just five starts in relief of Roethlisberger. Since Big Ben joined the team in 2004, Pittsburgh also selected 2006 fifth-round pick Omar Jacobs and 2008 fifth-rounder Dennis Dixon.

Rudolph is the highest QB selected by Pittsburgh since Big Ben's ascendance. Does that make it Roethlisberger's responsibility to tutor the young thrower?

"You know he's able to play," Big Ben said of Rudolph. "Anytime you get guys to come in, you can try to teach him a little bit, it's a good thing. I'll do whatever I can to help. I did that with Landry and try to help Dobbs as much as I can. Landry does a great job at that, he did it last year with Dobbs. It's kind of the backup's role."

With Roethlisberger still performing at a Pro Bowl level, the Steelers veteran's leash deserves to be very long in Pittsburgh, but the real question is how long will he be able to hold off Rudolph?

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