Coach Mike Tomlin has talked to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger multiple times this offseason, hitting on all of the normal topics the two usually address in the offseason.
"We've been in pretty fluid conversation," said Tomlin while attending the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. "I hear he's in some big-game hunting with Jim Kelly in New Zealand. We spoke before he went on that trip. We've had some good, fluid discussions. But really, normal discussions that we have this time of year, keeping him abreast of what's going on in free agency, how the draft is potentially shaping up, normal, fluid conversations you have with your veteran franchise quarterback."
There is one topic that really hasn't come up much, though, and that is Roethlisberger's comments made shortly after the season when he hinted at potential retirement.
"I'm going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there's going be a next season," said Roethlisberger at the end of the season. "At this point in my career and my age I feel like that's the prudent and smart thing to do every year."
Tomlin said it's smart of Roethlisberger to start thinking that way as he is entering his 14th NFL season, and he thinks it's probably not the first time he has had those types of thoughts.
"We hadn't talked quite a bit at all about play or no play," said Tomlin. "I'm just letting him sort through that process. I just think it's very reasonable discussion when you get to 35. I think people probably read too much into it and (are) making more out of it than what it is. I would imagine he goes through that thought process. It's probably not the first year he's gone through that thought process. And it probably won't be the last, if he continues. I just think that all of those guys in this game that are north of their early 30s, I think that's an assessment they go through annually.
"Ben is answering questions. Sometimes in an effort to be transparent and answer the question as honestly you can, it produces other questions. It's not an issue for me. I understand the nature of the conversation and how this discussion got started. He is going through his normal procedure. The older he gets, the more direct questions he gets in that regard. You guys ran with it. That is your right and responsibility. It's not my responsibility to overreact to it."
The Steelers haven't drafted a quarterback since selecting Landry Jones in the fourth round in the 2013 NFL Draft, but have paid close attention to the position in recent years and know the time will come to find a replacement for Roethlisberger.
"We have been in that mentality," said Tomlin. "I know (General Manager) Kevin (Colbert) and I have paid special attention to that position over the last several years, if nothing else, from a dry run perspective, to gain the knowledge and the information necessary to make good decisions when we come to that fork in the road. Who is to say that we aren't there right now? That's what I mean when I say that we have been in that mentality. That is just appropriate due diligence."
"To call it a dry run is because we didn't make some of the selections that we were looking at potentially making. Sometimes it's variables. Sometimes those aren't answered until you are on the clock, relative to who is available at that position and others. When we were going through it, I don't know that we were acknowledging it as a dry run. It depends on who is on the board when we are on the clock. So, we have gone through the procedure, and we will continue."