- In January 2017, Roethlisberger wouldn't commit to playing the next season and conceded a few months later that he considered retirement.
- After the 2017 season, Roethlisberger reportedly told teammates he wanted to play three more seasons. But here's what he said in January 2018: "I'm just playing it one year at a time. I'm excited to come back next year. I know [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter] Ed [Bouchette] said that he heard that some guys said something about me playing for another three years. I'm not going to look past one year. I'm going to look forward to next year and give it everything I have."
Fast-forward to early May, shortly after the Steelers traded up in the third round to take quarterback Mason Rudolph, whom they considered a first-round talent. Perhaps coincidentally, Roethlisberger found some clarity about his future.
Big Ben told the Post-Gazette he's fine with Rudolph succeeding him, adding "But I plan on playing for 3-5 more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy."
So there you go: Anywhere from three to five more years, which means the 36-year-old could play into his 40s. But there's a caveat; several days later, Roethlisberger told CBS Sports radio station 93.7 the Fan in Pittsburgh that the 3-5-year timeline is fluid.
"The key is, for me, I'm always going to take it one season at a time," he said. "I'm going to give everything this year and lay it all on the line like I do every week, for this season, for my guys. And then just really kind of at the end of the season, it's the same thing. You go through the evaluation process of how you feel."
Which brings us back to why the Steelers took Rudolph. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said it was a "very easy decision" to draft the Oklahoma State quarterback in the third round.
"He was with the group of the top quarterbacks. That was a really good position ... to be able to get one of those guys in our situation; this kid was available at a very easy selection point, and that's a critical position."
Drafting Rudolph was the easy part. Now he has to prove he's capable. And before we entertain any thoughts of him replacing Roethlisberger, Rudolph needs to prove he's better than 2017 fourth-rounder Joshua Dobbs, who didn't see the field last season, and Landry Jones, the 2013 fourth-rounder who is No. 2 on the depth chart and has a 3-2 record as a starter.
What to expect from that third-round pick
So what does history tell us about the success rate of quarterbacks drafted in the third round? Since 2004, the year the Steelers took Big Ben with the 11th overall pick, 19 quarterback have been taken in Round 3.
Here are the career stats of 17 of those quarterbacks, courtesy of the indispensable Pro-Football-Reference. Note that David Greene and Davis Webb aren't included because Greene never played in an NFL game and Webb didn't see the field during his rookie season in 2017.
|17||Garrett Grayson||2015||2015||3-75||1||0||0||0|| ||0||0||0|| || || || || |
And here's a breakdown of each of those 19 third-rounders drafted from 2004-2017:
Yeah, that didn't work out
Garrett Grayson (Saints' 2015 third-round pick) didn't take a regular-season snap as a rookie and he was cut prior to the 2016 season and landed on New Orleans' practice squad. He was cut again in September 2017 and landed on the Falcons' practice squad. He signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Falcons in January.
Kevin O'Connell (Patriots' 2008 third-round pick) appeared in two games -- both came as a rookie -- in a career that spanned five teams over five seasons. He was waived by the Patriots in August 2009. The Lions signed him days later and a week after that, traded him to the Jets for a seventh-round pick. He also was on the Dolphins' and Chargers' roster though he never threw a pass in a regular-season game after leaving New England. His final stat line: 4 of 6 for 23 yards, 1 sack, 3 rushes for -6 yards.
Andrew Walter (Raiders' 2006 third-round pick) started eight games as a rookie and went 2-6. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes with 3 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and had a passer rating of 55.8. In Walter's defense, that was a terrible Raiders team that finished 2-14. He played in only three more games over the following two seasons and was released in July 2009. He signed with the Patriots but was cut in August of that year.
Guys who never lived up to the hype
Ryan Mallett (Patriots' 2011 third-round pick) checked all the boxes on what an NFL quarterback should look like. He had all the physical attributes, including a ridiculous right arm, but he never got a chance behind Tom Brady. The Pats shipped him to Houston for a late-round pick in 2014 but questionable work habits plagued Mallett in Houston. After sleeping through an alarm clock in August and missing a flight in October, the Texans released him. Six weeks later, he signed with the Ravens, where he started two games in two-plus seasons. Mallett, now a free agent, is 3-5 in eight career starts, with a 55.1 completion percentage, 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Trent Edwards (Bills' 2007 third-round pick) arrived in Buffalo with glowing reviews from Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh but the former Stanford quarterback did little to shake the "Captain Checkdown" label he earned for his boring, predictable style. He went 5-4 as a rookie but completed just 56.1 percent of his passes with 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He went 7-7 a year later (65.5 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 10 INTs) but fell to 2-5 in 2009 and was benched midway through the season for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Two games into the 2010 season he was benched again, and the Bills cut him a week later. He started one game for the Jaguars later that year and made another appearance for the Eagles in 2012, his last in an NFL regular-season game.
Brodie Croyle (Chiefs' 2006 third-round pick) spent his rookie season on the bench behind Trent Green and Damon Huard. He couldn't beat out Huard in 2007 but eventually started six games for the injured quarterback ... and went 0-6, completing 56.7 percent of his passes with 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Croyle began 2008 as Kansas City's starting quarterback but injuries limited him to just two games. He'd make two more starts over the next two years and the Chiefs chose not to re-sign him when his rookie deal expired. In 10 career starts, Croyle was 0-10.
Charlie Whitehurst (Chargers' 2006 third-round pick) is probably be remembered for two things that are tangentially related to football:
1) His "Clipboard Jesus" nickname:
"That one" refers to this artistic masterpiece courtesy of Twitter user DirtD@wg:
2) The Whitehurst Nightmare Face:
From 2006-2016, Whitehurst played for five teams. He made nine career starts, going 2-7 while completing 55.3 percent of his throws with 11 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Charlie Frye (Browns' 2005 third-round pick) played in Cleveland for a three-year stretch that was one of the team's most successful since returning to the NFL in 1999. The Browns went 6-10, 4-12 and 10-6 from '05-'07. He started 18 games in the first two seasons, going 6-9, and although he won the starting job heading into 2007, he was benched in the season opener and never regained his job from Derek Anderson. Frye later played for the Seahawks and Raiders and finished his career with a 7-16 record, a 61.9 completion percentage, 17 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.
Replacement-level(ish) NFL quarterbacks
Mike Glennon (Buccaneers' 2013 third-round pick) made his first start four weeks into his rookie season, replacing former first-rounder Josh Freeman after the team's 0-3 start. He started the final 13 games, winning four of them, and finishing with a 59.4 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a passer rating of 83.9. In 2014, new coach Lovie Smith preferred veteran Josh McCown (incidentally, a 2002 third-round pick) to Glennon, who went 1-4 in five starts. He didn't start a game the next two seasons and signed a long-term deal with the Bears before the 2017 season. He made four starts in Chicago before the team turned to rookie first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky. Currently a backup in Arizona, Glennon has a career record of 6-16 with 34 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and an 83.2 passer rating.
Colt McCoy (Browns' 2010 third-round pick) started 21 games in his first two seasons, going 6-15 with 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. In 2012, he served as then-rookie Brandon Weeden's backup and after the season he was traded to the 49ers, where he didn't make a start. The Redskins signed him before the 2014 season where he started four games in '14 and served as Kirk Cousins' backup the last three years. In the final year of his current deal, McCoy will serve as the No. 2 behind Alex Smith, acquired earlier this offseason. For his career, McCoy is 7-18 with 26 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a passer rating of 78.9.
Jury's still out
C.J. Beathard (49ers' 2017 third-round pick) replaced ineffective Brian Hoyer in October, went 1-4 in five starts, and gave way to the 49ers' new franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired from the Patriots on Halloween, who went 5-0 in his first five starts with the team. Beathard completed 54.9 percent of his passes with 4 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a passer rating of 69.2. Given Garoppolo's recent five-year, $137.5 million extension, Beathard's future in San Francisco will be as a backup.
Cody Kessler (Browns' 2016 third-round pick), like just about every quarterback that preceded him in Cleveland, didn't stand a chance. He has an impressive career passer rating of 87.4 but he lost all eight starts as a rookie despite completing 65.6 percent of his passes with 6 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Kessler played in three games last season and is now with the Jaguars.
Jacoby Brissett (Patriots' 2016 third-round pick) played two games as a rookie while Tom Brady was suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo was injured. He went 1-1, completing 61.8 percent of his passes with no touchdowns or interceptions and an 83.9 passer rating. The Patriots traded him to Indianapolis just before the 2017 season where he went 4-11 in 15 starts for one of the NFL's worst teams. Still, Brissett had 13 TDs and just 7 INTs and an 81.7 passer rating. Indianapolis reportedly turned down several trade offers for Brissett this offseason, presumably as insurance for Andrew Luck, who continues to rehab from a shoulder surgery that sidelined him for the 2017 season.
Sean Mannion (Rams' 2015 third-round pick) has been a backup in each of his first three NFL seasons. As a rookie, he played behind Nick Foles and Case Keenum, and now he's the No. 2 behind 2016 first-overall pick Jared Goff. He has one career start and went 31 of 50 for 235 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Clearly, the Rams didn't consider him the team's future because a year after drafting him they selected Goff.
Davis Webb (Giants' 2017 third-round pick) didn't take a snap as a rookie but remains in the team's plans. There was speculation that New York might used the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to find Eli Manning's replacement but instead took running back Saquon Barkley.
Quality NFL starter
Nick Foles (Eagles' 2012 third-round pick) started six games as a rookie, going 1-5 with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. But Foles was 8-2 in 2013 with 27 TDs, 2 INTs and a passer rating of 119.2. He was 6-2 a season later (59.3 completion percentage, 13 TDs, 10 INTs). He was traded to the Rams in 2015 and went 4-7 (56.4/7/10) and was released after the team drafted Jared Goff with the first-overall pick in the 2016 draft. He was Alex Smith's backup in 2016 and a year later signed with the Eagles, where he played the final three games of the regular season after Carson Wentz suffered a knee injury. Foles led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title -- he earned MVP honors for his performance -- in the team's 41-33 victory over the Patriots.
Matt Schaub (Falcons' 2004 third-round pick) was originally drafted to serve as Michael Vick's backup but the team traded him to the Texans in March 2007, five months before the NFL suspended Vick for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. In seven seasons with Houston, Schaub went 46-42, including a 7-3 mark in 2011 and a 12-4 record in 2012, the first two years the franchise qualified for the playoffs. Schaub went 2-6 in 2013 and was eventually benched for Case Keenum. He was traded to the Raiders in the offseason, and spent time with the Ravens and the Falcons in subsequent years. For his career, Schaub has a 47-45 record and completed 63.9 percent of his passes with 133 touchdowns, 90 interceptions and a passer rating of 89.1.
Legit franchise quarterback
Russell Wilson (Seahawks' 2012 third-round pick) won the starting job as a rookie and has been one of the NFL's top quarterbacks in the six seasons since. Seattle won at least 10 games in each of Wilson's first five seasons, thanks in part to a stout running game and the league's best defense. But Wilson did his part too; for his career he's completed 64 percent of his throws with 161 touchdowns, 56 interceptions and a passer rating of 98.8. He's also rushed for 3,275 yards (5.7 YPC) and 16 touchdowns. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in Wilson's second season and had a chance at back-to-back titles if not for one ill-conceived play call. He has two years left on a four-year, $87.6 million contract he signed in 2016.
So what does this mean for Rudolph and the Steelers?
History suggests that Rudolph faces long odds to be the Steelers' starter for any length of time. More likely, it seems, he's destined to be a backup, and if he's lucky he'll even been a replacement-level one like Mike Glennon or Colt McCoy.