Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger recently turned 34 years old. The team’s championship window with a franchise quarterback who can play up to the level of such would seem to be closing, but their general manager, Kevin Colbert, believes that the former 2004 first-round draft pick still has a few years left of his prime abilities.
After all, just last season, in spite of a litany of injuries, he put up one of the best passing yards per game totals in NFL history, and the pairing between Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown set a historical pace if only they were able to stay together for a full 16-game schedule.
Speaking to Jeremy Fowler for ESPN, Colbert first hastened to point out that he among a small fraternity of starting quarterbacks in NFL history to have won multiple Super Bowl titles—the Steelers are only one of a handful such franchises to have more than one.
“We think we have three to four more good years in his prime”, he was quoted as saying. “We’re excited to see what he can do in that time period and what we can do to help him be successful”.
Of course, the Steelers should be in no rush to be excited to see what will happen following that time period. Pittsburgh had quite a dearth of success in between their two franchise quarterbacks, returning to the Super Bowl just once during a decades-long span, a game that was lost largely due to a pair of interceptions.
Entering the 2016 season, Roethlisberger is the seventh-oldest projected starting quarterback. And if you happen to look at the list of quarterbacks older than him, many of them, perhaps all of them, could be said to be in the top half of starting quarterbacks around the league. Tom Brady at 38 is projected to be the oldest starting quarterback.
There is reason to believe that he does indeed have a few years left of his prime football, which has really only developed within the past three years or so, even if injuries last season took their toll on his touchdown-to-interception ratio—which is somewhat ironic, given that he has never been better protected in his career.
According to Colbert’s estimate of three to four years remaining of prime football, that should take the Steelers through to the completion of Roethlisberger’s latest contract extension, which was good for five years through the 2019 season signed last offseason.
The front office is hoping to maximize the downturn of his prime years by surrounding him with talent and protection. They have made clear their efforts to bolster the team’s offensive line, and they just added a play-making tight end in Ladarius Green that will add a dimension that the offense has not had previously.