Big Ben hedges on mentoring QB Rudolph

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PITTSBURGH — Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was surprised the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a quarterback after he notified them about his plan to play three to five more years.

Appearing on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Friday, Roethlisberger was pointed when asked about last week’s selection of Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph with the 76th overall pick.

“I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said. “Nothing against Mason; I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now.

“But, you know, that’s not my decision to make. That’s on the coaches and the GM and the owner and those kind of things. If they think he can help our team, so be it, but I was a little surprised.”

Roethlisberger, 36, made a point to notify team officials early in the offseason about his plans, which he admits depend on health. He did this, he said, to ease any concerns for the offseason, including the draft.

“I wanted them to know so they wouldn’t have to worry about drafting a quarterback,” he said. “… I wanted to make sure there were no questions.”

The reaction from the Steelers was positive, Roethlisberger said — and he assumed they believed him.

“Once they drafted a quarterback in the third, I wasn’t sure if they believed me or not,” Roethlisberger added. “But I’m committed to it.”

The team drafted a quarterback for the second consecutive year; Josh Dobbs was selected out of Tennessee in the fourth round in 2017. Shortly before that draft, Roethlisberger had announced a return for a 14th season after a public flirtation with retirement.

This year, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team had a first-round grade on Rudolph, who set passing records with 13,618 yards for the Cowboys.

On the show, Roethlisberger openly wondered whether the Rudolph pick signaled the team “screwed up the pick” with the hardworking Dobbs.

Dobbs isn’t concerned about competing with Rudolph in training camp.

“I know how the league works. It’s just another opportunity to have competition,” Dobbs said. “I’m sure it will be a great addition to the [quarterback] room. … [The Steelers] were really excited with how I performed last year in the preseason and in practices and overall preparation.

“It’s like you can’t really take it personal. They are always looking for the next player. Quarterback is the most important position. No matter who they bring in, you have to compete every single day. Your play speaks for itself. That’s all you can do, show the leaps and bounds I made last year, continue to progress in the offense and add new ideas. I plan on being [at camp] and plan to compete. When you’re a true competitor, you rise to the competition.”

Asked about mentoring Rudolph, Roethlisberger was blunt.

“I don’t think I’ll need to, now that he said he doesn’t need me. If he asks me a question, I might just have to point to the playbook,” Roethlisberger said with a laugh.

Rudolph told the media on draft night that it’s not up to Roethlisberger to teach him anything, and that it’s his own job to learn.

Roethlisberger said he will answer questions if Rudolph asks, but added that backup Landry Jones is skilled at helping young quarterbacks.

“As far as I know, I’m still the starter,” Roethlisberger said. “So I need to get myself ready to go, ready to play and win a championship.”

Roethlisberger has two years left on his contract at a time when the quarterback market has reached $30 million annually thanks to Matt Ryan‘s deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

The quarterback seems to be in no hurry to address his contract. The team faces a potentially rocky negotiation with running back Le’Veon Bell this summer.

“To me, there’s more important pieces that need to be taken care of besides myself,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve got two years left, this one and one more. I want to go out and do the best I can. To me, it’s about addressing it next year. But if they feel they want to talk and address something this year, then we will obviously talk and listen.”

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