The Pittsburgh Steelers finally signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a very lucrative contract extension on Wednesday and that new deal, that now runs through the 2021 season, is widely assumed by many to be the last one he’ll sign in his NFL career. Steelers team president Art Rooney II, however, let it be known Wednesday during an interview with Bob Labriola of steelers.com that he’s not going to assume that Roethlisberger signed his last NFL contract earlier in the day.
“You know, I’m not going to assume that,” Rooney said. “We have quarterbacks playing in this league into their 40s now. So, who knows? I don’t think we have to assume that. When you get into this age it’s still unusual for a player to play, let’s say, into his 40s, but it’s not unprecedented at this point. And I think Ben takes care of himself and takes care of body and loves the game. So I would say, who knows?”
Rooney was asked if he has a theory as to why quite a few quarterbacks in the league right now are playing later into their life.
“You know, I think there are a lot of reasons for it,” Rooney said. “Number one, I do think the rule changes are a factor. I mean, obviously, players, or quarterbacks in particular, are not taking the same kind of hits that they took let’s say 20 years ago. And I think that we’ve been fortunate to have a pretty solid offensive line, particularly sort of in the last half of Ben’s career here. We’ve had a solid offensive line and have been able to protect him. And then I think in general, I think players are more aware of conditioning and nutrition and all of those things that allow them to continue to compete at a high level at a later age. So I think there’s a lot of factors.”
Rooney was immediately asked if he thinks, in general, that players being able to play later into their lives is a good thing for the league.
“I think it’s a great thing for the league, sure,” Rooney said. “I mean the fact that we’ve got Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, I mean, it’s great to have those guys playing in your stadium week in and week out. And so I think it’s a great thing for the league and you have to add at this point, it’s great to see some of these young guys coming along, too.
“So I think there was a few years ago, I remember there was talk that there aren’t enough good quarterbacks to go around anymore, but when you look at our league now, I don’t know that you can say that. I mean, there are a lot of very good to great quarterbacks playing in this league right now and I think that’s a great thing for the league.”
Rooney was asked at one point during the interview if it means anything to him personally, and to the Steelers organization, that Roethlisberger, in all likelihood, will play his entire career with the team that drafted him 15 years ago today.
“Yeah, I think it’s significant to have a player that plays that many years for one team,” Rooney said. “You know, generally it doesn’t happen all that often anymore and so it does mean something I think to the team. And I’m glad to say I think it means something to the player in this case. I think Ben really wants to retire as a Steeler, wants to make Pittsburgh his home and let’s say forever. And so for a lot of reasons, I think those things are significant.”
As for Roethlisberger’s Wednesday contract extension taking place on the 15th anniversary of him being drafted by the Steelers, Rooney said essentially the two dates coinciding is merely a coincidence.
“No, it wasn’t planned this way, but it’s a nice coincidence and it’s interesting,” Rooney said. “We obviously had high hopes for Ben but when you draft any player, you don’t know what you’re really going to get, as you well know. And so to be able to be extending the contract of a player who’s already played for you for 15 years is number one, unusual, and number two, it’s a great thing to be able to do. Obviously, Ben’s career with the Steelers has been remarkable, to say the least, and so we’re excited about being able to extend that career at least three more years.”