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Martavis Bryant and Mason Rudolph: Forever linked, one way or another

The Day-1 draft trade which could alter the future course of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you follow the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the offseason, including the NFL Draft, you likely remember hearing news of the team deciding to trade wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders for a third-round draft pick.

The reaction which followed ranged from relief — to excitement — to disappointment. Whatever your reaction was at that moment, what the team did with its extra pick from Oakland is certainly noteworthy.

After the trade was completed, the Steelers tried using it to trade up and draft a linebacker. The rumors hinted Kevin Colbert and company wanted to grab Rashaan Evans out of Alabama, but after the Tennessee Titans traded with the Baltimore Ravens and picked Evans, the Steelers were back to square one, with only an extra third-round selection.

After two rounds came and went during the 2018 NFL Draft, the Steelers were sick of sitting back and waiting. They traded a 7th round pick with the Seattle Seahawks to move up and draft quarterback Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State. Some see tremendous potential in Rudolph and believe he’s the future of the quarterback position, post-Ben Roethlisberger.

In retrospect, Martavis and Mason will always be connected. The man the Steelers shipped off to Oakland was the key to acquiring the potential heir apparent to Roethlisberger’s quarterback throne.

No, this isn’t a Hershel Walker to the Vikings type of trade, but it could be extremely significant for the future of the Black-and-gold.

Let’s assume Bryant contributes to the Raiders essentially what he did for the Steelers last year, and does so for the foreseeable future. The Raiders get an inconsistent but brimming-with-potential receiver who might end up being nothing more than a footnote in the annals of NFL History. But even if Bryant posts some crazy receptions or has some big seasons, you have to think about the other side of the coin.

While Bryant may or may not shine for the Raiders, the Steelers might have utilized this trade to draft a quarterback capable of leading the team into the future. Obviously, it’s unknown what Rudolph actually will do if and when he’s given an opportunity to start. But the two players will forever be linked because the trade went down on Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft, as well as by the ramifications of what the Steelers did with their end of the bargain.

Will this trade alter the future landscape of the Pittsburgh Steelers? No one knows that answer right now, but the potential gift received by sending Bryant to Oakland and Head Coach Jon Gruden far outweighs the loss of Bryant as a receiver on the team’s current offensive depth chart.

I, for one, am excited about the future of the quarterback position in Pittsburgh. And that’s something I haven’t been able to say since Roethlisberger was selected 11th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. To clarify, I’m certainly not hoping Roethlisberger gets injured or retires prematurely. But for once I’m not fearful of life without Big Ben. There’s finally a plan in place, and it’s all, in a way, thanks to Martavis Bryant.