Steelers smart to prepare for life after Big Ben

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Ben Roethlisberger
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Ben Roethlisberger /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for a new era as they drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers braintrust understand that Ben Roethlisberger won’t be the team’s quarterback forever. That’s why they are smartly preparing for life without Big Ben. The team could have a new starting quarterback as early as 2019.

The Steelers decision to take Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft is a clear signal that the team believes Roethlisberger’s time in the NFL is nearing an end. When he does ultimately call it quits, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. He’s taken a ton of hits during his NFL career and has suffered a variety of injuries over the last few seasons.

You shouldn’t assume that Pittsburgh’s decision to spend a third-round pick on Rudolph automatically anoints him as Roethlisberger’s heir apparent. The Steelers also spent a fourth-round pick on Tennessee signal caller Joshua Dobbs in last year’s Draft. The decision to bring in another developmental quarterback illustrates the intelligence of the team’s front office.

The Steelers are too good to secure the sort of top pick that’s generally required to select a franchise quarterback. They also still have aspirations of competing for a Super Bowl this season. That means they need to fill other holes on the roster with their current arsenal of draft picks. In other words, they can’t afford to give away their entire draft just to move up and take a quarterback in the top 10.

The only other way to make sure you can secure a starting quarterback for the future is to throw some numbers at the position. The Steelers now get to have Dobbs and Rudolph in their system for at least a full season before they’d be called upon to take over for Big Ben. That gives the Pittsburgh coaching staff time to both coach them up and fully evaluate what they can do. That’s an advantage most quarterback needy teams don’t enjoy.

Very simply, putting two quarterbacks into their developmental system doubles the Steelers’ chances to find a legitimate starting quarterback. Many teams would be afraid to spend middle round picks on quarterbacks in back-to-back drafts.

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The Steelers are outsmarting the rest of the league with their willingness to coach up two signal callers at once. It may not work out for the team in the end, but it’s the best course of action available to them to find a Roethlisberger replacement.