Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has never been known to be one to talk about his hopes for his team’s draft class before it happens. And the one time he made the ill-fated decision to comment on a draft pick soon after it was made—two years ago, with Mason Rudolph—he quickly grew to regret it.
Football fans have a tendency to liken franchise quarterbacks to NBA superstars like LeBron James, who could have an inordinate role to play in shaping the way a team is built. The NFL simply doesn’t work that way, for a number of different reasons, and even among quarterbacks who may have more cache, Roethlisberger is not known to be one who may exercise what little he may have.
That’s more or less the gist of what he said on SiriusXM recently, even going so far as to say that he doesn’t pay attention to all of the pre-draft talk that the media puts out, whether it’s the deluge of mock drafts or prospect rankings. “No, I don’t even look at it”, he said. “I don’t worry about it, care about it”. “Probably sounds like a bad way to say it, but, you know, everybody that played in college is great, right? It doesn’t mean they’re going to be a great NFL player”, he added. “There’s been some great, great college football players that haven’t done anything in the NFL. There’s been some good or average college players that have been great in the NFL”.
The only time Roethlisberger is really inclined to talk about rookies is during the quiet periods of the offseason program, and he tends to be reserved in his comments. I still remember his downplaying of Le’Veon Bell in his first offseason before he had taken the field, even though he was a second-round pick—and so does Bell, of course, since he whined about it for no reason in an interview last year after signing with the New York Jets.
“To me, until you come to this team and you show me that you could do something on Sundays, it’s hard for me to get really excited”, the quarterback said, “because we’ve got guys on this team already that have shown what they can do on Sundays, you know?”.
Lately, though, rookies have been getting on the field and earning his praise, particularly in recent years JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson. By his second season, Roethlisberger was talking about Smith-Schuster like a bona fide number one target—even before he was in that role.
This year, odds are pretty solid that the Steelers’ top pick (in the second round) will be an offensive skill position player. But how soon will he get a chance to be on the field? And how much would that hinder his ability to contribute right away?