I don’t know much, but I do know this year’s Steelers' preseason action is going to be a lot more exciting than most.
With Mason Rudolph, the Oklahoma State quarterback the Steelers selected on Friday night with their first of two third-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, now officially in the fold, there won’t be the annual “camp arm” stepping in in the fourth quarter to act as my warm milk by putting me to sleep early.
Rudolph will now join backup quarterback (and opposite of fan favorite) Landry Jones and third-string quarterback (and last year’s Mason Rudolph, after coming to town as a fourth-round pick out of Tennessee) Joshua Dobbs as this summer’s trio of passers who will make the bulk of the reads (and, let’s face it, mistakes) during preseason games, while Ben Roethlisberger stands on the sidelines with that darn towel around his neck.
But you don’t want Roethlisberger to play in any games this August, and neither do I.
What we mostly want to see are the two most recent draft picks do their things under center.
I’ve long-since given up on the notion of Jones being anything more than a competent backup--a rather bland label most people aren’t even willing to begrudge him.
But it wasn’t that long ago--five years, in fact--when Jones, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma in the 2013 NFL Draft, caused quite a stir by being selected high enough, and having a college resume that included 16,646 passing yards (a Sooner record), that people began to speculate on the reasons for his addition to the roster.
Even hometown hero and fan-favorite, Charlie Batch, the team’s long-time backup quarterback, speculated on the drafting of Jones:
”Ultimately, I think this isn’t about replacing me,” said Batch five springs ago, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and NFL.com. “Big picture, maybe they’re thinking, ‘Can we develop Landry Jones to be the starter? Maybe two years from now, he could be our guy for the next 10 years.’ We don’t know. But with contracts for quarterbacks these days, he’d certainly be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ben at age 34 or 35 or 36.”
That comment from Batch might seem pretty ridiculous now. And as history has shown us, Jones was brought in because the organization wanted to get a young backup quarterback in its system and develop him to a point where the offense could function close enough to the original blueprint in the event the team had to go an extended amount of time without Roethlisberger, who missed several games over the previous three seasons due to injuries and a four-game suspension.
The Steelers may have been sincere in their thinking and in their plans for Jones, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded the problem of having a legit heir apparent on their hands, a la Jimmy Garoppolo in New England, who the Patriots might ultimately regret trading to the 49ers late last season.
Which brings us back to today, and the selection of Rudolph.
Is he the heir apparent to Roethlisberger? I’m sure the organization wouldn’t mind if his play ultimately befits that label, but before you give up on him just yet, you can probably say the same thing about Dobbs.
It’s funny how quickly we as fans can turn on a player. This isn’t to say the black and gold faithful have now banished Dobbs to the same lonely corner they tossed Jones in a long time ago, but a popular sentiment seems to be that the selection of Rudolph means the Steelers have officially given up on Dobbs.
A knee-jerk reaction, no doubt (hey, given that I am asked for my knee jerk reactions to many things on BTSC’s Final Score, I get it), but it’s likely not true.
How can the organization be much more convinced about Dobbs’ future than it is about Rudolph’s at this stage of the game?
It was a year ago at this time that Dobbs was the draft darling--the actual rocket scientist who charmed Jon Gruden at his QB camp.
Today, he has no chance at being Roethlisberger’s heir apparent? It’s all about Rudolph the red nosed QB (blame my brother for that)?
I think what the Rudolph selection--along with those of Jones and Dobbs--demonstrates is that replacing a franchise quarterback on the fly is no small task.
Heck, it’s no small task when a team has the top overall selection, as the Browns might find out yet again.
While many folks believe you replace a franchise quarterback with a first-round pick (history tells us, the higher you pick him in the first round, the better chance he has of becoming a starter), others subscribe to the theory that you draft one in the middle rounds each year with the hopes that you’ll catch lightning (or Tom Brady or Russell Wilson) in a bottle.
I must admit, after the selection of Rudolph on Friday night, I haven’t been this excited about the Steelers drafting a quarterback since, well, Roethlisberger, some 14 years ago. And after watching his interview on NFL.com the other night, I love his confidence and demeanor (he feels he’s the best quarterback in this year’s class).
Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudolph does become the legit heir to Roethlisberger’s throne.
But Rudolph is also a third-round pick, one whose NFL.com draft profile suggests he has the “potential of becoming an average to below average starter in the league.”
So, it also wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers used another third or fourth-round pick on a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Finding an heir apparent ain’t easy, so you might as well collect as many as possible before the king finally decides to vacate his throne.