When Ben Roethlisberger steps on the field for the season opener, beginning his 16th season in the NFL, he will officially being the longest-tenured player in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Hall of Fame center Mike Webster spent 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, and still holds the record for the most games played, but Roethlisberger, if he stays healthy, will pass that mark as well.
He spoke to Missi Matthews during the game last night about that and other topics, and when told that he would become the longest-tenured player in franchise history, he said that it would be “an awesome honor”.
“I know later this year, I’m going to get—potentially, if I can make it that far—the most games played”, he said. “But with all the tradition and history of this team has with the players and all that stuff, especially with today’s game and free agency and everything like that, to be able to be here, to do this, and to have that opportunity, it’s humbling”.
Steelers fans should probably start taking the time to appreciate that, because not many players spend 16 seasons in the same place, or even make it to 16 seasons in the NFL. We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that he helped bring two Super Bowl championships to Pittsburgh. Only nine teams other than the Steelers have won the Super Bowl since 2005, their first since the 1970s, so there are still 22 other teams worse off than Pittsburgh in terms of drought.
But why this is relevant is because with Roethlisberger in tow, still committed for the next three years, the Steelers remain very much in the Super Bowl chase, and in fact 2019 may present them with their best season in recent years, with a more diversified offense and a rising defense that has been bolstered with an influx of talent via the draft and free agency.
We’re not at the retrospective phase of Roethlisberger’s career just yet. He is not thinking about that too much, outside of when it’s brought up to him. He’s focused on winning games, for what it means now, and not for his legacy.
It’s that sort of attitude that helps you stay at the top of your profession for so long. Roethlisberger threw more touchdowns and for more yards in 2018 than he ever has before, and he is fully expected to have a stronger season this year, with a more even performance with better ball security.
The legacy aspect of all that will play itself out through the natural course of events. He’ll pass Webster for the most seasons played, and the most games played. Nobody will have ever spent more time in a Steelers uniform than Roethlisberger. And that’s because nobody has earned it longer through his play and his longevity.