Roethlisberger likes Manziel but favors Bortles for the long run
Ben Roethlisberger said he believes Johnny Manziel's undeniable athleticism will allow him to enjoy early NFL success but questions whether he will be durable enough to sustain stardom.
Roethlisberger, speaking Tuesday on his 93.7 FM radio show, also said Blake Bortles — the Class of 2014 quarterback who most resembles Roethlisberger — will be the best of the much-debated rookie QB group.
“I talked to Blake, and I know Blake has that fiery chip,” Roethlisberger said of Bortles, who played at Central Florida. “I think he's going to be the best one of the group because I see something in him, his competitiveness, his leadership. And I think he's got a lot of upside.”
Roethlisberger also praised Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, saying, “He'll come into this league, and he'll probably be a star early because he'll use his athleticism.”
But Roethlisberger also related a recent conversation he had with former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter, now a Steelers defensive assistant.
“I was in the weight room the other day with Joey Porter, (and he was) asking me what I thought about Manziel,” Roethlisberger said. “I looked at Joey and said, ‘Joey, do you think if you got a good hit on him, that he would be OK? And he said, ‘No, not at all.' And that's my question.
“You have guys like Joey Porter, who's a big guy, guys that are fast like Troy (Polamalu), Ike Taylor coming off the edge, Lawrence Timmons. You'd better be real athletic, get down or be big” to absorb the pounding an NFL quarterback can take.
“I think he definitely has a lot of upside, but let's wait and see,” Roethlisberger said. “The key I'll say every year when I get asked about RGIII (Robert Griffin III), Andrew Luck, or whoever it is, Cam Newton. It's not about your first year, it's about years two, three and four.
“Can you sustain it when defenses, like Coach (Dick) LeBeau and the defenses he coaches, when they figure you out, can you find a way to stay a step above them?”
Bortles is listed at 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, making him the same height and only nine pounds lighter than Roethlisberger. Manziel is 5-111⁄2 and 207.
Roethlisberger, who has two years remaining on his current contract, also said he knows of no ongoing contract talks between his agent, Ryan Tollner, and the Steelers.
“I think there's always a chance (for a new deal), but I don't know how realistic it is,” Roethlisberger said on his 93.7 FM show. “I don't know that there are any real serious talks. If there is, I haven't been informed of it. I think it's probably just been some small talk, like, ‘Let's talk later.' It's hard for me to really speculate what they're doing behind closed doors. It's nothing significant enough to be brought to my attention.”
Roethlisberger also said:
• He was surprised when wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery left to sign with the Carolina Panthers. Cotchery led the Steelers with 10 touchdown catches last season.
“He was one of the best teammates, along with Heath Miller, I've ever played with in any sport,” Roethlisberger said. “ I didn't see us losing him, so it might have made it a little tougher when you're not expecting someone to go. But he had to do what was right and best for his family.”
• He works out six times a week, and going into his 11th season at age 32, he hopes to play until he is nearing 40.
“I feel great. I feel like I'm in great shape. I feel really good,” he said. “At this rate, I feel I could play for quite a few more years. I feel I could get five, six, seven more years out of these arms and legs.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.