Mike Tomlin says Steelers to pay 'special attention' to draft QBs

PHOENIX -- The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the NFL draft with the future at quarterback in mind.

The Steelers have aggressively evaluated draft-eligible quarterbacks in the past few years and will do so this year, coach Mike Tomlin told Pittsburgh-area reporters at the NFL owners meetings.

Starter Ben Roethlisberger, 35, said in late January that he would evaluate his future during the offseason.

"We've been in that mentality," said Tomlin, who has been in consistent contact with Roethlisberger since the season ended. "Our experience in this business and the realities of this business put us in that mindset. [General manager] Kevin [Colbert] and I have spent 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's to say that we aren't there right now?"

The Steelers haven't selected a quarterback in the top three rounds of the draft since taking Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004. The team re-signed Landry Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2013, to a two-year contract.

Tomlin said he has updated Roethlisberger on the team's perspective in free agency and the draft, but discussions about his future have been minimal. On Jan. 24, Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan that he would "take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and kind of take some time away to evaluate next season -- if there's gonna be a next season."

This month at the Ignite Men's Conference at Liberty University, Roethlisberger told the crowd he's "leaning towards" playing a 14th season.

"[These are] normal, fluid conversations that you have with your veteran, franchise quarterback," said Tomlin about the correspondence with Roethlisberger. "We haven't talked quite a bit at all about play or no play. I'm just letting him sort through that process. I just think it's a very reasonable discussion when you get [to] 35. I think people probably read too much into it and make more out of it than what it is. I imagine it's probably not the first year he's gone through that process, and it probably won't be the last if it continues."

Once again, the Steelers are hitting the pro-day circuit and will get firsthand looks at several quarterbacks, including Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Pitt's Nate Peterman last week.

When it comes to potentially drafting a quarterback, it's largely about what's available to the team while on the clock, Tomlin said.

"We've gone through that procedure and will continue," Tomlin said.