I admit I may not have the greatest pulse in the world about what the majority of Pittsburgh Steelers fans are thinking. But I do know that there’s a good percentage of those out there who think the team really dropped the ball by ‘wasting’ two draft picks in the third round on players ‘who won’t even play this year’.
There’s a fundamental problem with that line of thinking. We don’t even know if they won’t play this year. Ben Roethlisberger has only gone through three seasons of his career without missing a game due to injury or suspension, though granted the 2017 season was one of them. And it’s been a long time since the swing tackle hasn’t started a game. You would have to go all the way back to 2009 to find the last time that happened.
But it’s the Steelers’ first pick of the third round, quarterback Mason Rudolph, that I really want to focus on right now. There are two different viewpoints that regard the pick as a waste. The first view argues that he will not contribute to the team’s Super Bowl run this year, and so a third-round pick would have been better spent on a player who would. There is logic to this, though we don’t actually know it’s true.
The other viewpoint is what I’d like to call the Jimmy Garoppolo phenomenon. The New England Patriots used a second-round pick on the quarterback in 2014 only to trade him away four years later when their starter, Tom Brady, was found to still be halfway decent. The Patriots have been in every AFC Championship game since then, going to the Super Bowl a few times and winning two.
Let’s just put it this way: if the worst part of the Mason Rudolph selection is that the Steelers can’t afford to keep him because Roethlisberger is still playing so well that they’re not ready to move on from him, then that is a great problem to have.
Another alternative is that Rudolph actually does take over the quarterback position within the next four years and becomes the Steelers’ next franchise quarterback without requiring that there be a bridge period that keeps the team out of contention for the Super Bowl for decades.
The only way to find out if the latter is possible is to actually draft him and develop him to see how he does. The odds favor that he will start at least a few games over the course of his rookie contract, so we will see him in a meaningful game at some point, unless he’s just so bad that the team never feels comfortable putting him in.
My perception might be off, but I still see a decent amount of people against the Rudolph pick and considering it a waste of resources. I don’t think it’s possible to make that argument yet because we just don’t know what the future will bring.
Given Roethlisberger’s famously competitive nature, the prospect of ceding the quarterback position to an heir apparent could actually fuel him not only to play for as long as his body will allow, but to also keep himself at the top of his game. You don’t draft a quarterback for that reason, but it sure would be a nice side bonus.