Two years ago Ben Roethlisberger told us he may retire. This past season after the Jacksonville game, Ben was quoted as saying “I may not have it anymore“. Now most of us just chalked this up to Roethlisberger being his same old dramatic self. Nobody actually believed he would retire anytime soon, except maybe the Steelers? Is it just a coincidence that in the two years following the retirement talk, the team has drafted quarterbacks both years? Last offseason, Kevin Colbert talked about doing practice runs on evaluating college quarterbacks so he would be ready when the time comes to need to draft one. How the Steelers got from that, to actually drafting their potential next QB in just one year raises some questions.
Any NFL general manager would be concerned if their starting quarterback began talking retirement. Kevin Colbert would not be doing his job properly if he didn’t at least begin preparing for such a scenario. By drafting Mason Rudolph, are the Steelers more concerned about where Big Ben is then they are letting on? Clearly this is not the same as drafting Joshua Dobbs, and hoping he can become a backup. Rudolph was drafted to be the eventual starter on this team. Keep in mind there is only a four year window on this player before he can reach free agency. It is not a leap to say the Steelers brass has concerns that Roethlisberger may not last more than two seasons. Even though publicly the team has not wavered from the point they believe Big Ben will play at least three more seasons, privately their actions show they think differently.
All that said, perhaps Rudolph was indeed to good a value to pass up in the third round. Maybe this was all pure coincidence, and a very good quarterback did just fall into their lap. One things for sure, this selection certainly has had some unintended positive consequences. Suddenly, Ben Roethlisberger is stating on the record he plans to play three to five more years. He was even quoted as saying about Rudolph “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“. Drafting a quarterback appears to have lit a fire under Ben Roethlisberger.
The best case scenario is Ben plays at an elite level going forward and Rudolph never sees the field as a starter for very long. At that point the Steelers can flip him for a better draft pick, like the Patriots did with Jimmy Garappolo. The Steelers sacrificed depth at key positions like linebacker and wide receiver in order to make this pick. Something tells me they didn’t have the best case scenario in mind when they made their decision to draft Rudolph.