Steelers GM expects Big Ben to return but says team needs a 'QB plan in place'

First, the good news: Shortly after the Steelers’ season ended in Gillette Stadium against a much better Patriots team, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hinted that he might retire. The expectation is that won’t happen and the future Hall of Famer will return in 2017 for his 14th NFL season. This is a welcome development for an organization that will be one of the favorites in the AFC.

Now the bad news: Big Ben, who will be 35 next month, may decide to really retire in the next year or two (his current contract runs through 2019), which means the Steelers need to plan for that eventuality.

In the near term, that means re-signing soon-to-be free agent Landry Jones, the 2013 fourth-round pick who has made 15 appearances the last two seasons, including two starts in 2016 (he lost to the Patriots in Week 17 and beat the Browns in Week 17).

“We’d like to have Landry stay in the mix,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters on Thursday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac. “Will we add a guy? Absolutely. When? It’s hard to say. Sooner or later we will have to address that.”

Jones has been a serviceable backup -- Dulac adds that “the Steelers consider Jones to be better than 80 percent of the other backups in the league” -- and he’s well-versed in Todd Haley’s offense. That said, is Jones the answer at quarterback in a post-Roethlisberger world?

Luckily, the Steelers don’t need to answer that question  now, though Colbert conceded that teams that had been successful when a franchise quarterback called it a career had his replacement already on the roster, pointing to Montana and Young in San Francisco and Favre and Rodgers in Green Bay as examples.

“You should have a successful quarterback plan in place,” Colbert said. The Steelers won’t draft a quarterback early in the 2017 NFL Draft, though Colbert concedes that should Big Ben have a change of heart and sashay off into the sunset, the team’s plans will have to adjust accordingly.

“Where it stands is, Ben said that it’s a possibility, and we’ll treat it as such,” Colbert said. “We hope he doesn’t retire. If he does, then as an organization we’ll try to move on, and we will move on. It doesn’t change our planning. When we scout in the fall, we scout every position. Even when Ben was a young player, we still evaluated the quarterback class, because how the quarterbacks stack up (in the draft) is going to affect how the tackles stack up and how the receivers stack up. We always evaluate every position, and if Ben would decide to retire we would be prepared then to move accordingly. I hope we don’t get to that situation for a few more years.

“I’m working under the assumption that until he says he’s retired officially, then he’s not. If he decides to (retire), then we’ll act accordingly, but in the meantime we’re not going to get out of sorts with potential retirements.”

(Presumably) making Roethlisberger’s decision easier: The Steelers are currently working on a new deal for Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell will likely be next on the to-do list.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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