By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Jacksonville rookie Blake Bortles is one of those young quarterbacks that coaches love, big and tough with a strong arm and the elusiveness to keep a play alive when the protection breaks down.
Are Pittsburgh Steelers fans reminded of anyone?
"A young me,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Yeah, I don't move quite as well as I used to. ... I liked him coming out. I thought he was the most ready and a guy that I thought could be the best just because I think the things he does. He can extend plays."
"He can stay in (the pocket). He can throw the ball, (and) he can throw on the run. He is an impressive-type young player. He makes some rookie mistakes, but he also makes some plays that you don't expect rookies to make in a good way. (And) he's going to be good for a long time, I believe.''
Roethlisberger and Bortles also have the same agent, Ryan Tollner, and the two kept in contact when Bortles prepared for the NFL Draft this year. That's not the end of the connection, either.
"I talked to him a bunch, over text messages and on the phone,'' Bortles said. "I had an opportunity to throw with him out in California and spend some time with him. He was a good guy to talk to. He's obviously somebody that has had a ton of success at this level."
"It was really cool for me to be able to talk to him and kind of him to share his stories and advice and see what I could learn from him. ... We come from smaller schools and wind up playing in our rookie year toward the beginning of it. (And) he's definitely somebody that I've been compared to a lot."
"(But) he's won two Super Bowls, (and) I've played a game and a half,'' Bortles added. "So I don't know how much comparison there is there. But as far as playing type, I think a big guy that can move around a little bit. (And) he's definitely somebody that I try to model some things I do after him.''
Bortles and the Jaguars (0-4) play host to the Steelers (2-2) Sunday and should provide the visitors with an intriguing matchup. Bortles has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has been sacked four times, so he's not invincible.
"He's done a nice job,'' Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "We've talked to our whole team, I guess it's not new news, but we're really young. We have, I don't know how many guys are playing under four games (career NFL games) on offense, and we're great with that. We understand that."
"Our GM, Dave Caldwell, myself, we understood that this was going to take place, and we like the progress. But we did know coming into it, we kind of had a race to maturity. We kind of had these guys that were inexperienced, and we had to get them to play like an experienced group and we tried to create a culture or environment where we could speed up that process.''
Bortles, like Roethlisberger, wasn't supposed to play his rookie season. But both were thrust into a tough situation when the starter -- Chad Henne for Jacksonville -- was injured.
"The difference for me was that I had a veteran team around me,'' Roethlisberger said. "Jacksonville is very young at a lot of positions.''
There are eight rookies in the Jaguars' roster, two-deep on offense, including four starters, while the defense has two rookies as backups.
"I think, obviously as a competitor, you want to go play,'' Bortles said. "You want to go play now, and that was my mindset. I understood the reasoning for not playing. I think there's guys that have played right away that have been successful and guys that have played right away that have struggled."
"I think there's pros and cons to both sides of it. But I think, especially, I feel like I learn best by going through and doing it. I think you learn by making mistakes and what throws you can and can't make and what decisions to make and not to make. (And) I enjoy throwing the ball down the field.''
Notes: WR Martavis Bryant (illness), ILB Ryan Shazier (knee) and CB Ike Taylor (right forearm) did not practice Thursday. ... Shazier and Taylor already have been ruled out, while Bryant missed a second straight day. He likely would be deactivated anyway like previous weeks. ... QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related) and WR Markus Wheaton (groin) were limited. ... OG Ramon Foster, OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and OLB James Harris (illness) were full participants, along with DE Brett Keisel, TE Heath Miller, FS Mike Mitchell and SS Troy Polamalu, who were all back after a maintenance day off Wednesday.