With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger now in his mid-30s and openly discussing the possibility of exiting the football world in the near future—though not this season—it is understandable that there has been a great deal of discussion about what comes next for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the all-important quarterback position.
There should be no surprise that many have drawn a comparison between where the Steelers are and where the Packers found themselves over a decade ago with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who at the time was also in his mid-30s and seemingly unlikely to continue to play for as long as he ended up doing.
It is rare—exceedingly rare—for a franchise to have the sort of opportunity that the Packers had to go from Favre to Aaron Rodgers at the quarterback position, and it is even more rare for them not to bungle that opportunity. If there were a Rodgers in this draft and he was there at 30, I’m sure the Steelers would be happy to take him.
Favre’s final years with the Packers are not the only comparison that has been made, however. Jeremy Fowler at ESPN recently likened the situation that the Steelers are currently in which the concurrent scenario facing the Cardinals and Carson Palmer, who was contemplating retirement this offseason as well.
The comparison was sparked by a quote from Head Coach Bruce Arians, who said that any quarterback they might take—and they may well take one in the first round—“would have a ‘unique situation’ in Arizona because he’d get first-team reps with the starting offense on Wednesdays, Carson Palmer’s rest day”, Fowler wrote.
He pointed out that Roethlisberger often takes rest days early in the week as well, meaning that there would be the potential for a rookie drafted—not necessarily this season—for the heir apparent to get some quality work in during meaningful practice in the middle of the season, rather than trying to learn everything he needs to know in the classroom and on the periphery.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin once described the justification for the proverbial ‘veterans’ day off’ as a “contusion of the birth certificate” a couple of years back. As players get up there in years, sometimes rest is more valuable than reps. Which is a golden opportunity for a young player, especially at a position such as quarterback, with only one on the field at a time.
This is actually a good point in my opinion, though it doesn’t make me any more eager to take a quarterback in the draft this year, largely because I don’t have much confidence that any of them coming out is likely to develop in a franchise building block—at least of a Super Bowl-caliber team.
It is something to consider for the future, however, and the coaching staff may even encourage Roethlisberger’s rest in the early portions of the week. I’m sure the veteran quarterback wouldn’t mind too much.