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Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger: Rookie Mason Rudolph needs to bide his time

By
The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to the bench during the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 14, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looks to the bench during the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 14, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping they found their quarterback of the future in Mason Rudolph.

Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hopes that is the case as well, but with one caveat: He wants the team's newly-minted, third-round draft pick to understand that the operative word is future.

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"Well, that's fine. He can do that," Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette of Pittsburgh on Tuesday of the possibility of Rudolph being the long-range answer at quarterback. "But I plan on playing for three to five more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy.

"If he's going to be their guy, that's great, but in my perfect world it's not going to be for a while."

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The desire to continue playing that long is a marked turnaround for Roethlisberger, who said last July that he was contemplating retirement as he prepared to enter his 14th NFL season.

However, Roethlisberger played in every game in 2017 until sitting out the regular-season finale and earned his sixth Pro Bowl selection, throwing for 4,251 yards with 28 touchdowns versus 14 interceptions. He also became the first quarterback in history with three 500-yard games.

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"I went and talked to [team officials] and basically said, 'Listen, I can't control -- barring major injuries, barring things at home, and things out of your control -- the way my body feels. The way our O-line is put together, as good as they are, they kept me healthy as can be the last couple years. I really feel I can play this game another three to five years.'

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"I'll still take it one year at a time and give it everything I have that one year, but that's what I felt comfortable in telling them."

Pittsburgh was ecstatic to get Rudolph in the third round, trading two draft picks to move up three spots to No. 76 to snag a player that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said they "valued as much as the rest of those quarterbacks that were drafted [in the first round]."

Rudolph posted a 32-9 mark as a starter at Oklahoma State and owns 54 school records, including single-season passing yards (4,553) and career passing yards (13,618), passing touchdowns (90) and pass efficiency (63.2 percent).

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"He was with the group of the top quarterbacks," Colbert said of Rudolph. "That was a really good position. That's very unique to the draft. It usually doesn't come through with a nice group like that. ... We haven't had that much depth at the top of the draft at [quarterback] in a long time. Mason was certainly a part of that group in our opinion."

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Roethlisberger, who is tied with Terry Bradshaw as the longest-tenured quarterback in franchise history, said he has no problem tutoring a player that could be groomed to take his place -- much as he did with current backups Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs.

"You know he's able to play. Anytime you get guys to come in, you can try to teach him a little bit, it's a good thing," said Roethlisberger. "I'll do whatever I can to help. I did that with Landry and try to help Dobbs as much as I can. Landry does a great job at that, he did it last year with Dobbs. It's kind of the backup's role."

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