AFC North: Oldie but goodie

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
1:00
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Projecting the best 30-and-over player in my division by the start of the 2014 season.

The NFL is such a year-to-year league that it's hard to predict which veteran players will continue to thrive. Injuries can take a toll on any superstar in his 30s and that player may never be the same.

But the "oldie but goodie" player I predict will still be dominant in the AFC North three years from now is Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 29-year-old will be 32 in 2014, and quarterback is one of the few positions NFL players can still dominate at an advanced age.

Other quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have recently put together some of their best seasons well into their 30s, and there's no indication Roethlisberger couldn't do the same. According to Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Roethlisberger played the best football of his career in 2010, which is a sign the two-time Super Bowl champion is in his prime years.

Health is the only concern for Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has never put a good offensive line in front of him, and Roethlisberger's been sacked an astounding 221 times the past five seasons. That’s an average of 44.2 sacks per season.

As a result, Roethlisberger has suffered a variety of injuries to his foot, ribs and shoulder. But he's been fortunate to avoid any season-ending ailments. As long as that continues, Roethlisberger should thrive in Pittsburgh for years to come.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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