After the entrenched starter questioned why the team would draft a backup quarterback instead of a player who could help win now, Big Ben was thrashed by many for being a selfish preservationist. That opinion was often juxtaposed to a quote that Sports Illustrated unearthed from 2005, in which Roethlisberger credited former Steelers starter Tommy Maddox with mentoring him through his first few seasons.
Maddox, tracked down by ESPN's Jeremy Fowler this week at Decatur High School in Texas, where he serves as head baseball coach, thinks when all is said and done Roethlisberger will do right by Rudolph.
"I think Ben will treat him with respect," Maddox said. "His No. 1 goal is to get ready to play and help the team be successful.
"I've heard a lot of people say he owes it. That kind of gets into a little bit of a slippery slope. His job is to win football games right now. But, with that said, I think everybody in the locker room, the more it gets along, the better this team is going to be."
The situation with Big Ben and Rudolph isn't apples to apples with Maddox's former situation. After being a first-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 1992, Maddox bounced around the NFL, with stints in the XFL and AFL, before landing in Pittsburgh. Maddox won Comeback Player of the Year in 2002, but went just 6-10 in 2003, which led to the Steelers drafting Roethlisberger No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. A Maddox arm injury in the second game of 2004 led to Big Ben taking over for good.
The obvious difference was Roethlisberger was drafted to take Maddox's job soon thereafter. Rudolph was selected in the third round to eventually, maybe, possibly-down-the-road take over when Roethlisberger walks away, and to upgrade a shaky backup position.
Maddox has taken spins being in both positions. When he was drafted by the Broncos in '92, it peeved John Elway.
"Everybody's going to handle things differently. I'm not going to sit here and say I think Ben owes it to him to [mentor]," Maddox said. "I think all of us, when you're playing, you owe it to your teammates to be respectful and do what's best for the team and all that.
"I don't think it's a situation where Ben owes it or that's his job or whatever. But it is his job as a leader of the team to lead the team and make sure there's no distractions."
Until Big Ben retires he's got little job security to worry about. In the meantime, given that he's played a full 16-game slate just three times in his 15-year-career, helping Rudolph learn the ropes can only be a positive for Pittsburgh.