Ben Roethlisberger was just kidding, guys.
He’s not mad about rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph being a Pittsburgh Steeler. That narrative is something fans and media have blown out of proportion. Just ask him.
“I think people took some things I said into a context that I was going to be mean or rude [to Rudolph] or whatever,” Roethlisberger told reporters Tuesday. “That was not it at all. If you listen to the whole conversation, it was said in jest and laughing and having fun.
“I’ve never been the type to just be rude or mean to other quarterbacks. I’ve had a lot of quarterbacks come through here that are younger than me that I’ve tried to help any way that I can. So I’ll continue to do that.”
Ben Roethlisberger changes his tune on Mason Rudolph
Roethlisberger’s words to reporters after organized team activities Tuesday is the latest in a back-and-forth in the media between the 36-year-old veteran signal caller and third-round rookie out of Oklahoma State.
Roethlisberger was apparently not pleased when the Steelers selected Rudolph in April’s draft and responded by changing his retirement-talk tune to verbally commit to play several more years in Pittsburgh.
“Well, that’s fine. He can do that,” Roethlisberger said of Rudolph being his heir apparent after the draft. “But I plan on playing for three to five more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy.
“If he’s going to be their guy, that’s great, but in my perfect world it’s not going to be for a while.”
Roethlisberger later told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that he was surprised the Steelers, a team built to compete now, would use a third-round pick of a player who presumably wouldn’t see the field.
“So I was surprised when they took a quarterback, because I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now. Nothing against Mason. I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how, you know, backing up or being the third guy — who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — but [how it] helps us win now.”
Rudolph has played it cool under fire from Roethlisberger
Rudolph, putting on his good-rookie hat, took the high road on Roethlisberger’s media comments during minicamp earlier in May.
“I think the media got it kind of twisted around a little bit. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’s a competitive guy. That’s what I would expect. He’s a longtime starter. I’m sure when we get in this building, in this room, we’re going to be friends, and I’m going to let him do his thing and pick up what I can from him but not bother him.”
Big Ben, the nice guy
And now we have Roethlisberger coming full circle and welcoming Rudolph with open arms. He even gave Rudolph some pointers on Tuesday after a missed pass to fullback Roosevelt Nix.
“There was a particular play he ran a little naked [bootleg] on,” Roethlisberger said, “and he was probably six or seven yards from Rosey and he threw it pretty hard at Rosey and he threw it high and Rosey didn’t catch it. You know, Rosey’s kind of a team favorite here and the linemen started giving him a little grief and stuff.
I just pulled him aside and said, ‘Hey listen, you’ll learn quickly: Every throw doesn’t have to be the hardest throw you can make. You don’t have to put every throw like on a guy’s chests as hard as you can. That’s a great opportunity to just give him a nice easy touch pass.’ Just trying to instill little things like that.”
Roethlisberger’s gamut of responses all makes sense from an emotional standpoint, if not a hugely professional one. He seemed genuinely surprised and threatened when Pittsburgh drafted Rudolph. Given time and having met Rudolph, he’s toned things down and seems to realize an adversarial relationship probably won’t work out well for anyone involved.
And until Roethlisberger gives the Steelers any reason on the field to consider moving on, he realistically doesn’t have anything to worry about.
He is 36. But he’s also coming off his fourth straight season with a Pro Bowl nod and playing for a team with aspirations way too high to consider looking toward a rookie quarterback.
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