Are you one of the Pittsburgh Steelers fans who are hoping that the team addresses the elephant in the quarterback room sooner rather than later? Well, then you might be in luck, because all parties are acknowledging that they are taking Ben Roethlisberger’s comments seriously and are reflecting upon the fact that that era will close soon—and that it’s time to be ready to find the next one.
The next one being the next quarterback to carry the Steelers’ franchise, which isn’t something that they have had to look for since 2004, when the team drafted Roethlisberger. They haven’t drafted a quarterback earlier than the fourth round—with Landry Jones in 2013—since then, and they haven’t taken a quarterback in the first two rounds other than Roethlisberger since 1995 when they drafted Kordell Stewart.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin was recently asked about their mindset in preparing for the next chapter after Roethlisberger. “I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years”, he said, “that’s what this business tells us to be in. We better start sharpening our sword in terms of evaluation of quarterbacks and what’s available to us or potentially available to us, that’s just due diligence. So yes, we have”.
The Steelers haven’t had to sharpen their first-round quarterback sword in quite a while, as has been mentioned, but the team is starting to kick the tires. Reportedly, they are going to bring in Davis Webb for a pre-draft visit, and inevitably they will have attended the Pro Days of several top quarterbacks and spoken with them when all is said and done.
While Tomlin and others have said that they are working under the assumption that Roethlisberger is going to return to play for them in 2017, there isn’t a lot of assurance beyond that. Still, the fact that they believe he will return this year is at least small comfort.
“I think because of (Roethlisberger’s) durability and how he plays, I don’t know that we have that level of urgency, but we are taking ourselves mentally through the process”, he said. “Not an easy one, obviously, but it is what it is. It’s an element of the business. Guys can’t play forever and he acknowledges that and we acknowledge that”.
Perhaps not forever, but Roethlisberger has already played for 13 seasons and won two Super Bowls, playing in three. He has a career completion percentage of 64.1 and will in all likelihood surpass 50,000 passing yards in in 2017, fewer than 3200 yards away from the milestone.
Throwing for nearly eight yards per pass attempt, Roethlisberger’ 301 are the ninth-most all-time and fifth among active players, and he has the ninth-best career passer rating to date. The Steelers have been tremendously fortunate to have him quarterback their team for so long, but all parties are of the understanding that this arrangement may have a very brief time left. It’s certainly far closer to the end than it is to the beginning entering his age-36 season.