No one is taking seriously the retirement musings of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The team nevertheless realizes that he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and they’re beginning to plan accordingly.
“I think we’ve been in that mindset for the last several years, that’s what this business tells us to be in,” coach Mike Tomlin told NFL Network in an interview that will be televised on Wednesday. “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.”
It makes plenty of sense for the Steelers to be looking for their next quarterback, even if Roethlisberger ultimately objects to the use of a high draft pick on a quarterback when it otherwise could be used on getting him help as he pursues a third Super Bowl win. Still, it doesn’t seem to be a major priority, at least not for now.
“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,” Tomlin 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.”
In the two decades between the retirement of Terry Bradshaw and the drafting of Roethlisberger, the Steelers lacked a true franchise quarterback. Not coincidentally, they also didn’t win a Super Bowl during that same gap.
It will nevertheless make for an awkward year (or two, or three) if the Steelers draft Roethlisberger’s replacement before he needs to be replaced. That should be a very real factor for the team as it decides whether to roll the dice on the next franchise quarterback before the current one walks away.