The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off of a bitter, frustrating loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game when we first heard about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger supposedly mulling retirement.
While he ultimately did not retire, he spent the next couple of years only claiming that from this point forward he would take things a year at a time and reevaluate where he is every offseason, in order to determine whether or not he believes he can or should continue to play.
That changed this offseason when the Steelers gave him a substantial new two-year contract extension. Reportedly, president Art Rooney II sought a commitment from Roethlisberger to play out that contract before the deal was done. And now the line he gives is that he plans to honor his contract, as he always has.
Still, everybody is now asking quarterbacks, older ones in particular, about their future in light of the sudden and shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL right now, who at 29 and following a four-year cycle of injury, rehabilitation, and reinjury, decided that football for the foreseeable future cannot be a part of the life he wants to live for himself.
While the immediate fan reaction to the leaked report of Luck’s plan to retire was negative—he was even booed by fans in the stadium—there has been a tremendous amount of support for his decision as well, largely coming from players.
“I thought it was incredibly brave and honorable to walk away from a game he obviously loves very much”, Roethlisberger told Andrea Kremer during an interview that aired yesterday when asked about Luck retiring. “I know Andrew a little bit. He’s a great quarterback, but an awesome person. And so for him to do this at this point in his career, I tip my cap to him”.
Kremer then asked Roethlisberger if that event had made him weigh his “career mortality” any heavier than he already has. “I feel really good”, he told the reporter. “I’m blessed with the line that’s in front of me. I feel healthy”.
The 37-year-old has been taking better care of his body—and the team has been taking care of him—better than he has for many years. One could seriously wonder if he is in the best shape that he has been since his early 30s. He did lead the league with 675 pass attempts in 2018, along with 5129 passing yards.
But when pressed further about his plans for the future, Roethlisberger would only say what he has been saying since April after he signed his extension: “I’m gonna honor my contract like I always have. So that’s what I’m focused on right now”.
For what it’s worth, there have been reports that Roethlisberger has told others he plans to play longer. Rooney has also said that they don’t necessarily view this as the last deal done with their quarterback. But if they do another, it will see him playing into his 40s, which is rare air even still in the game.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 4, 2019