As the Pittsburgh Steelers formulate their draft plans, they have the backdrop of a top-shelf quarterback seemingly not slowing any time soon.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said this offseason that Ben Roethlisberger probably has several more prime years. The franchise intends to exploit that window.
"Ben's a franchise quarterback," Colbert said while reflecting on Roethlisberger and his growth since the 2004 draft. "There are a few that have two [or more Super Bowls since 2004], but he's one of those few. We're very fortunate. We still have, you know, we think three to four more good years in his prime. We're excited to see what he can do in that time period and what we can do to help him be successful."
Colbert isn't capping Roethlisberger's career, but he's pointing out how the team plans to maximize the talent around Roethlisberger during what would be classified as his best remaining years.
Roethlisberger turned 34 in March and will be 37 entering the 2019 season.
Successful quarterbacks playing into their middle to late 30s isn't a new thing. The New Orleans Saints are reworking a deal for the 37-year-old Drew Brees, who's no longer in his prime but still very effective. Tom Brady, who will be 39 in August, threw for 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the New England Patriots last season.
After Peyton Manning's retirement, Roethlisberger is the NFL's seventh-oldest starting quarterback on a full-time basis, behind the San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers (34, nearly three months older than Roethlisberger), New York Giants' Eli Manning (35), Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo (35), Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer (36), Brees (37) and Brady (38).
One common thread among those seven: They are all very good. Palmer just came off his best NFL season. Manning threw for a career-high 35 touchdowns.
Roethlisberger has said in the past he'll continue playing until his body tells him to shut it down. In 2015, Roethlisberger averaged nearly 330 passing yards per game in 12 regular-season games.
Roethlisberger's contract extension runs to 2019. By then, the Steelers will know how many prime years he has left.