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Regardless of Ben Roethlisberger’s comments, the Steelers have to prepare for the future

Ben Roethlisberger made waves by saying he wants to play another 3-5 years, but the Steelers had no choice but to prepare for the future.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

If you were like me, when you read Ben Roethlisberger’s most recent comments about his future, you were surprised.

“Well, that’s fine. He can do that,” Roethlisberger told the Post-Gazette on Tuesday about rookie Mason Rudolph someday taking over as the starting 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.”

“I went and talked to Art [Rooney II] and coach [Mike Tomlin] and coach Randy [Fichtner] 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.’

“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.”

Anyone else see the contradictions in these comments?

If Roethlisberger stays healthy...

and if he is still happy...

and if he still enjoys playing for the offensive coordinator...

then he will be back.

Then again, he will take it one year at a time.

So, what is the Steelers organization supposed to do? Just wait around for the day Roethlisberger decides he is done, and to realize they are stuck with a combination of Landry Jones and/or Joshua Dobbs? Such a decision would plunge the organization into a post-Bradshaw type quarterback funk experienced throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s.

No, the Steelers had to prepare for the future, regardless what Roethlisberger thinks or says.

To be honest, this is all Roethlisberger’s doing. It was his comments after the team’s AFC Championship game loss to the Patriots which spawned the, “Will he retire?” debate every year. Prior to those comments being made, no one thought there was a chance Roethlisberger would hang up the cleats so soon.

The caveat to all this “Will he, won’t he play” talk is the Steelers are a very successful team, and this means you are never drafting earlier than the 25th spot in the NFL Draft. Not many quarterbacks who could be viewed as the future are available at this spot, but when Mason Rudolph fell to the 3rd round, the team was wise to pick him up.

What the drafting of Rudolph shouldn’t be construed as is a shot at Roethlisberger. No one is pushing Roethlisberger out the door, and if he plays 3-5 more years it will likely mean he is still healthy and productive. It also means the team has a tremendous chance to continue winning at the rate they have been under Mike Tomlin since he took over in 2007.

But, on the outside chance Roethlisberger suffers a serious injury, has something happen off the field or just decides enough is enough, a plan can start to be put into place where there is a player to take over after a franchise quarterback leaves.

I’m not labeling Rudolph as the “next guy” for the Steelers. It is way too early for that, but Rudolph was the highest drafted quarterback since the team selected Roethlisberger 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. He has the look, and pedigree, of a player more than capable of playing at a high level in the NFL, and that is something which should ease fans’ minds regarding Roethlisberger’s eventual retirement — whenever that may be.

The bottom line is this: No one should want to see Rudolph play outside of the preseason anytime soon. The ideal situation is he learns behind Roethlisberger, and when the time for him to take over comes, he is more than ready.

With that said, the Steelers couldn’t just sit around waiting on Roethlisberger. They had to prepare for the future, and the Rudolph pick was certainly a step in that direction...nothing more, and nothing less.