With the Pittsburgh Steelers giving "special attention" to quarterbacks in this year's draft, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked recently about his philosophy of when to look for an heir apparent at that position.
"I haven't thought about it," Harbaugh said at last week's owners meetings. "Our quarterback is going to be our quarterback for a long time. He's not there yet."
In fact, Flacco has gone in the opposite extreme. He believes he can play into his 40s.
Another factor favoring Flacco is that he takes fewer hits than Roethlisberger and has sustained fewer injuries. Since Flacco entered the NFL in 2008, he has been sacked 20 less times than Roethlisberger despite playing eight more games.
Flacco also just signed an extension last year that keeps him under contract through 2021 and included a signing bonus of $40 million. Even if Flacco struggled mightily, the Ravens are married to him contractually for the next three seasons because of the double-digit million dollars of dead money they would incur by releasing him.
"Our thought right now is to have the best backup we can possibly have for Joe in case we need it," Harbaugh said. "We really haven't had that discussion yet as far as the heir apparent."
Since selecting Flacco with the No. 18 overall pick in 2008, the Ravens have drafted two quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor was Flacco's backup for four seasons after being selected in the sixth round in 2011, and Keith Wenning lasted only one year on the team's practice squad after getting taken in the sixth round in 2014. This is why the Ravens have had to go with veteran backups (Matt Schaub and Ryan Mallett) the previous two seasons.
The Steelers have had a similar philosophy when drafting quarterbacks. Since Roethlisberger was selected in 2004, Pittsburgh has only drafted three quarterbacks: Omar Jacobs (fifth round, 2006), Dennis Dixon (fifth round, 2008) and Landry Jones (fourth round, 2013).
That could change this year. The Steelers reportedly had a pre-draft visit with Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II on Monday. He is the fourth-best quarterback in this year's draft, according to ESPN's Todd McShay, and he's been projected to go in the first two rounds.
How would Harbaugh handle an "heir apparent" situation like this?
"I certainly wouldn't want to comment on it as it relates to the Steelers situation," Harbaugh said with a chuckle. "They're fully capable of handling that themselves."