Ben Roethlisberger wants to delay the start of the Mason Rudolph era in Pittsburgh, but Big Ben won’t last five more years for the Steelers.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft everyone assumed Ben Roethlisberger’s time in Steel Town was nearing an end. Big Ben would like everyone in the Steelers organization to stop exaggerating reports of his imminent demise.
Instead, Roethlisberger told local reporters that he intends to play “three to five more years.” He did qualify that the length remaining in his career would depend on the quality of his offensive line and his health. Playing an additional five years would theoretically leave Roethlisberger in charge all the way through Rudolph’s rookie contract and then some.
The good news for Rudolph is that there’s little chance Big Ben can hang around another five years. Roethlisberger deserves a lot of credit for his durability over the years, but he’s taken an absolute pounding. Part of it comes down to the team around him, but part of it is the result of Roethlisberger’s refusal to throw the ball away. His willingness to hang in the pocket and take hits is both a blessing and a curse for he and the Steelers.
Even if Roethlisberger manages to avoid injury, there’s no guarantee the Steelers will still want him as their starting quarterback. The former Miami (OH) star is already 36 years old. Not every quarterback can play as long as Tom Brady. The truth is Roethlisberger’s performance level could dip at any moment due to natural age-related regression.
If his play starts to dip, officials with the Steelers are going to get anxious about finding out what they have in Rudolph. They didn’t spend a valuable pick to draft him just to see him hold a clipboard on the sideline. They clearly believe he has the talent to become an NFL starting quarterback. At some point, the Steelers are going to want to find out if they were right in that assessment.
It’s good news for Steelers fans that Roethlisberger wants to extend his career with the franchise, but it doesn’t mean he’s going to get his wish. The odds are overwhelmingly against his wish to play five more years in the NFL. Expect Rudolph to get his chance to replace Big Ben well before the timeline Roethlisberger espoused today is complete.