It’s a standby line you always hear after each NFL Draft: “It will take three years to judge/grade this new class.” Truly, the knee-jerk reactions are annoying and often turn out wrong.
Fans need to take this axiom to heart.
Despite the conventional wisdom, forget about it when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-round pick this year. The Mason Rudolph pick is already a smashing success! If you had any doubts about the Rudolph pick, you can kiss them goodbye. Ben Roethlisberger’s reactions alone have just proven it was worth “wasting” a third-round selection on a quarterback this year.
Yes, this year. I proclaim that pick should receive an “A” grade immediately; no need to wait three years. What’s more, we don’t have to wait for camp to open for this pick to receive its high mark. It went into the grade book in permanent ink as soon as the “irked” comments spilled from Roethlisberger’s mouth.
Do you recall Ben’s mouth moving so much after the Joshua Dobb pick?
The Landry Jones pick?
No, because these guys were zero threats to Roethlisberger’s future. Nobody graded Dobbs or Jones that high. They were both “projects” and Big Ben knew it. He could say all the right things or—really—dismiss them entirely. They were picked late in the draft because everyone knew they were huge dart throws. But maybe they become the next Tom Brady? Yeah, sure.
Mason Rudolph was a third-rounder, but he clearly fell to that round, a circumstance you can blame on a deep QB class. After the teams with the huge needs at QB scooped up their prospects, Rudolph fell. But, this is no Landry Jones.
Many so-called experts project a bright future for Rudolph. Many also say he is the heir- apparent to Big Ben. You only need to read or listen to any of the post-draft coverage to know this. It was said often.
Big Ben reads and he has ears. He knew this, too. That’s why we started hearing the comments from him. You’ve heard them reported a thousand times already, on every NFL offseason site or show. Suddenly, Big Ben was going to play 3-5 more years. He claimed it was a wasted pick.
Wait, what? Hasn’t Ben Roethlisberger thrown scares left and right into Steelers Nation that he might retire after each of the past two seasons? Doesn’t he always need “time” to think about it? Didn’t he famously say that he might not “have it anymore” after a tough loss last season?
But now he’s questioning the Steelers’ drafting of a QB and saying he’ll play five more seasons?
I’m no fan of Tom Brady, but I always was a fan of his approach to the NFL. Does he ever mope publicly about retirement? No, he says he ridiculously wants to play till 45! That is what you want from your team leader. You don’t want to have to question the quarterback’s drive at the end of the season, a la Big Ben. That brings you down, and you’ve got to hope he suddenly snaps out of it.
All because of Mason Rudolph. If the Steelers drafted another one of the “project” quarterbacks a few rounds later, that wouldn’t have motivated Big Ben. That’s why he grades an “A” and later quarterback picks would not have graded as highly.
I also loved Mason Rudolph’s initial quotes. They were respectful, but not kissy-ass like you often hear from new quarterbacks. He sounded like a quarterback who wants to start now, and that’s what you want. Just give him the playbook, he feels, and let him start to practice. Maybe he’s smart enough to know that a veteran QB never wants to train his successor. He didn’t kneel at the Big Ben throne, and I respect that, but maybe that lit a fire under Roethlisberger too.
If you can motivate a future Hall of Famer to play 3-5 more years and make him sound again like the Big Ben who was angry that Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning were drafted ahead of him, that’s the right pick in my book for the Steelers. Not a third-round linebacker who might not even make the team, or simply warm the bench.
Ben Roethlisberger—with a chip on his shoulder again—is a nice thing to have.
Too bad the Steelers couldn’t have used a high pick for a running back and elicited a similar reaction from Le’Veon Bell to get him into camp. Competition in the NFL can be just what the doctor ordered.