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BENZ: With his QB comments, Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger brings circus to town

(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
  • Friday, Ben Roethlisberger questioned the wisdom of picking QB Mason Rudolph in the third round.
  • Roethlisberger also said he wouldn't mentor Rudolph, leaving those duties to backup Landry Jones.
  • Roethlisberger has said he intends to play three to five more years.

Well, this Ben Roethlisberger-Mason Rudolph quarterback dynamic is going exactly as expected right away, isn't it?

Ben Roethlisberger has created a controversy with his recent comments about the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round. AP FILE PHOTO

Speaking on the radio at the end of last week for the first time since Rudolph was drafted, Roethlisberger sounded surprised and confused as to why the Steelers would draft a quarterback in the third round.

That's how he wanted to sound.

It's pretty clear what he really is. He's not surprised. He is ticked off.

OK, maybe both.

During a 20-minute interview on 93.7 FM on Friday , Roethlisberger questioned the wisdom of leaving other good players on the board to take Rudolph, assigned the mentorship role of Rudolph to Landry Jones, publicly wondered why Josh Dobbs was drafted in the first place last year as a result of this selection and pondered if the Steelers believed him when he said he would continue playing for three to five more years.

Aside from that he didn't say much, I guess.

Oh, he also pretended that his status as the starter was in question and wondered if the Steelers would trade him.

I forgot that part.

He only meant half of what he said: To be clear, Roethlisberger actually means only about half of that stuff. When Roethlisberger said during the interview, "As far as I know, I'm still the starter," c'mon. He knows he's still the starter.

When Roethlisberger quipped, "Who knows, maybe they'll trade me," when asked which quarterback may get moved before the regular season starts, Big Ben knows he has zero chance of getting traded.

That's just Ben being Ben. Since we all know this passive-aggressive routine from Roethlisberger during his interviews — such as the infamous "maybe I don't have it anymore" line after the five interceptions against Jacksonville last year — it's easy to blow off his comments and say "it's no big deal."

In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph (2) scores the game-winning touchdown against Texas Tech during a college football game in Lubbock, Texas. Rudolph was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. (Brad Tollefson/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal via AP, File

Still, it's a big deal: Well, it is a big deal. Because when a future Hall of Fame quarterback has his potential successor drafted, the public is going to make it a big deal.

So why augment that? Especially in a locker room where drama is something that needed to be minimized this year.

If Roethlisberger had said words to the effect of: "I fully intend on playing three to five more years. I understand the team's desire to fortify itself for the future. Mason Rudolph could be a part of that. I intend to help him in any way I can," then there's no story. There's no debate. There's no talk-show fodder.

Heck, I'm not writing this column.

Speaking with a purpose: Roethlisberger knows that. Everything he said was with a purpose Friday. That purpose was to let everyone know he wasn't thrilled that a quarterback was selected in the third round.

Otherwise, why is Roethlisberger saying things like — regarding Josh Dobbs — "Last year, he's taken in the fourth round, so does that mean the Steelers screwed up with that pick? Has he not developed the way that they thought? Why else would you take a quarterback in the third round next year?"

Jones given mentor duties: Also, you just had to love Roethlisberger flat out assigning the mentorship duties to Jones.

"The backup quarterback's role is, one, to get the starter ready but, two, make sure that he's ready to go. But he has kind of accepted a role of also helping the young guys way more than I kind of had to. Maybe he's done that to take it off of my plate a little bit because he understands the preparation that I need to have for myself," Roethlisberger said.

Isn't Rudolph far more likely to take Jones' job in the near future before Roethlisberger's? Jones is a free agent after 2018. But Jones is the one who has to get his successor ready?

Explain that one to me.

Real kicker: The real kicker was when Roethlisberger — who bristles anytime he feels like his quotes are taken out of context (trust me, I know) — twisted something that Rudolph had said after the draft.

Rudolph went out of his way to say he doesn't need Roethlisberger to teach him, and that it's his own job to get himself ready to play.

When asked by host Andrew FIllipponi if he'd take Rudolph under his wing, Roethlisberger chuckled, "I don't think I'll need to, now that he said he doesn't need me." He added, "If he asks me a question, maybe I'll just point to the playbook."

A little laugh from Roethlisberger attempted to dilute the truth behind the joke. But please, Ben, that's not what the kid meant. You know that.

"If I was Ben, I would probably say the same thing. He's a competitor," Rudolph responded on the NFL Network . "He's going to be a future Hall of Famer. I would expect him to say that."

Gee. The rookie is doing a better job of keeping things balanced than the 14-year veteran is.

The ring master: If Roethlisberger doesn't want this dynamic to be a media circus, he's got to understand one thing: He's the ringmaster. There is no circus if he's not welcoming people under the big top.