The general sentiment when the Steelers drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft was that Rudolph would some day take over for incumbent starter Ben Roethlisberger.
But if Roethlisberger has any say in the matter, that won’t happen for a long time.
Following the Steelers’ postseason loss to the Jaguars earlier this year, the quarterback reportedly told his teammates he wanted to play for “at least” three more seasons.
In a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 36-year-old took things one step further, saying he wants to play for another “three to five” years.
Roethlisberger addressed the fact that many see Rudolph as his successor, and indicated that while Rudolph may indeed replace him one day, it won’t be “for a while.”
“Well, that’s fine. He can do that,” Roethlisberger said regarding the possibility of Rudolph one day starting under center for the Steelers. “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 added.
If Roethlisberger does stay healthy, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if he kept playing at a high level.
The quarterback struggled to start the year, but improved greatly in the second half, averaging almost 350 passing yards per game and nearly three touchdowns, according to ESPN. He finished the year with 4,251 passing yards and 28 touchdowns, and was named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.
Looking ahead to the 2018 season, Roethlisberger has a talented offensive line to protect him, and is surrounded by arguably the league’s top two players at their respective positions: running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Add in second-year wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the Steelers’ offense should be scary once again, despite the fact that they recently traded away wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
Roethlisberger was surprised by the trade, but he’s still optimistic about the future, especially considering the Steelers used a second-round pick on wideout James Washington.
“When I heard about Martavis, I was like ‘Oh, man.’ I really enjoyed playing with Martavis. I think he was a great weapon, he helped our offense, did some great things by attracting attention and making plays for us. I was kind of caught off guard, but teams have reasons for doing things. I think part of it was him expressing trade things that we all heard so much about. I think he’s probably pretty happy. For him and his family, if you’re in a good happy place, then good for him,” Roethlisberger said.
“When that happened, obviously we knew they would try to address that position in the draft. I know a little bit about that kid from Oklahoma State, watched some of his highlights. A lot of people are comparing him to JuJu (Smith-Schuster). If we can get JuJu’s productivity out of him, that’s awesome,” he added.
Regarding Rudolph, meanwhile, who the Steelers picked one round after Washington, Roethlisberger said that just because he doesn’t want the rookie to take his job doesn’t mean he won’t try to help Rudolph develop as a quarterback.
“You know he’s able to play. 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,” he said.
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