PITTSBURGH -- Buried by the weekslong storyline of Ben Roethlisberger's reaction to the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting quarterback Mason Rudolph was a fundamental question with huge implications: How does a guy who one year ago flirted with retirement pivot to a three-to-five-year outlook?
Roethlisberger, who turned 36 in March, is eyeing a late-30s resurgence, and as he tells it, the reason is simple.
"Being excited about the group we have, the linemen in particular in front of me," said Roethlisberger from Tuesday's organized team activities session. "I'm healthy, and just lots of prayers and spending time with family. I'm still going to take it one year at a time but just feeling like what you have left in the tank."
Without overstating one offseason workout, Roethlisberger looks every bit renewed. He ran individual drills with good pace, using the seconds between reps to instruct several pass-catchers on route angles. He says he's here to help Rudolph despite recent radio comments suggesting he'd be icy to the rookie.
And he even called out linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was in attendance from a golf cart.
"I told him he's trying to give our plays away," Roethlisberger said. "He had his card on the sideline and I had to tell him to move because we were throwing an out route there."
With star players around the league staying away from voluntary workouts, including teammate Le'Veon Bell, Roethlisberger joked that he showed up Tuesday because "I'd never hear the end of it from [center Maurkice] Pouncey" if he skipped. But even if the Steelers' decision to take Rudolph over a win-now player rankled him, going back to work has a way of normalizing things.
The presence of Rudolph won't change the fact the offense revolves around Roethlisberger's chemistry with teammates. And Roethlisberger is coming off a hot streak of nearly 350 passing yards per game over the final seven outings of the 2017 season.
"It was good to be back out here, be with the guys," Roethlisberger said. "Have some fun with guys that you haven't been around in a while and see some new guys and get rained on a little bit. ... To laugh, smile and throw the football around is always fun."
Pouncey, his close friend on the team, knows his quarterback is comfortable because he has assessed the big picture: He's got a good offense and is well-protected.
Roethlisberger has taken an average of 19.3 sacks per year from 2015 to 2017, a stark improvement from the 38.1 average from 2004 to 2014. Continue that pace and Roethlisberger will be conducting the offense for at least the next few May workouts.
"He's a Hall of Famer. What more can you say? That guy is prepared every single day," Pouncey said. "I think it was more -- he took a lot of hits [in] years past. But he had a great year, made a Pro Bowl. He'd be crazy to walk away."