Ben Roethlisberger signed a two-year contract extension last Spring that, at the time, made him the second-highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, based on the new-money portion of the deal. Running through 2021, his age-39 season, there was reasonable skepticism that he would not play beyond that point.
After all, while there are certainly some few prominent examples of quarterbacks successfully playing into their 40s, the representative sample is still quite small. There is Tom Brady, of course, who is still going. Brett Favre in 2009 had a great season. Drew Brees joined the club a year ago. Warren Moon is the most notable name of older vintage.
It doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago when Roethlisberger was giving everyone in Pittsburgh a fright in his talk about taking the rest of his career on a year-to-year basis, as recently as about 2017 or so—after which point they fired Todd Haley.
But that talk didn’t go away. You might recall that last year, before the Steelers agreed to pay him a boatload of money to quarterback for the next few seasons, Art Rooney II actually felt it appropriate to get a verbal commitment from Roethlisberger that he intends to see that contract through.
And then that became Roethlisberger’s line. In May of last year, for example, he gave us a number of variations of “three years is what I’ve committed to the Steelers, and I’ve always honored my contracts, and I’m going to continue to honor it”. We heard that for most of the offseason.
Still, a couple of weeks after that, he did allow for the possibility of more. He did reiterate the same line as above, but then said, “as long as I feel like I can perform at a high level and I’m not hurting my team, then I want to be out there and give it everything I have trying to win”.
And Rooney even said back when the deal was signed that he’s “not going to assume” that this is the last deal Roethlisberger signs in his career. The quarterback himself hinted at that possibility recently, talking to Terez Paylor for a Yahoo article.
While he hastened to warn that he’s “not saying I’ve got 10 years in me by any means”, he did tell Paylor that he felt like there was more left in the tank. He likened his career to a book or a movie. “No one comes to a movie to watch the beginning and middle of it, they want to see what happens at the end”, he said.
“And honestly, since we’re just speaking about football, to me it’s about life and it’s about family, that’s always going to be my priority. But when it comes to my football story, I just feel like there’s a few more chapters left, and I hope they’re the best ones I’ve been able to write”.
It’s a fitting sentiment for the man who helped Jerome Bettis author a storybook ending to his career. One of his most important sports figure inspirations was John Elway, who finally won a pair of Super Bowls at the end of his career. If he has to go spinning up in the air for a title, you know he’s gonna do it. And he may way continue to do it for as long as his body is willing. Now with a new elbow, who knows what the expiration date is?