It’s generally not a great idea for an organization to surprise their franchise quarterback, but the Pittsburgh Steelers dealt quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a couple of surprises this past weekend during the 2018 NFL Draft. For one thing, though he surely knew it was a possibility, they traded up (albeit in the third round) for a quarterback already being viewed as a candidate to be his heir apparent.
But the bigger surprise came the day before, and prior to the team even making any selections in the draft, when they opted to deal fourth-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant for a third-round draft pick. Knowing realistically that the Steelers would only have him on board for one more season, the organization made the determination that the third-round pick now presented better value than one more season of Bryant.
While the headlines from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article yesterday were about Roethlisberger saying that he feels physically as though he can play another three to five years, he also talked about being caught off-guard by the Bryant trade, even if he understood it.
“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”, the quarterback said of the talented but troubled wide receiver.
“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”.
I think I and many others had a similar reaction to the Bryant trade, being taken off-guard and initially finding it a shock that the move was actually made, but once the information was processed, most seemed to realize that it was the best for both parties.
“When that happened, obviously we knew they would try to address that position in the draft”, Roethlisberger continued. The Steelers used their second-round pick on Mason Rudolph’s teammate, James Washington, in the second round before using the third-round pick acquired via the Bryant trade to trade up three spots in the next round and take the quarterback
“ I know a little bit about that kid from Oklahoma State, watched some of his highlights”, he went on. “A lot of people are comparing him to [JuJu Smith-Schuster]. If we can get JuJu’s productivity out of him, that’s awesome”.
Smith-Schuster, like Washington, was taken at the end of the second round during the Steelers’ draft a year ago. He also had a productive college career (working with Cody Kessler and then Sam Darnold) before declaring early. As a rookie, he caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He also returned a kick for a touchdown.