There isn’t a topic more central to the discussion of the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2021 season and beyond than is the future of the quarterback position, and specifically of Ben Roethlisberger manning it, who has been the guy under center for the past 17 years.
Soon to be 39 years old, Roethlisberger is coming off of a season that was statistically successful, with 33 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, but rather inefficient. It was good enough to help them win 12 games during the regular season, but it was clear that something was amiss.
Team president Art Rooney II has said this offseason that something must be done to lower Roethlisberger’s salary cap figure in order for the quarterback to return for his 18th season, which is slightly unusual, but speaks to the situation at hand. Nevertheless, the general feeling is that both sides will be committed to working something out and playing through the 2021 season.
Over the past few weeks, a number of his current and former (and perhaps soon-to-be former) teammates have been asked to weigh in on Roethlisberger and his future, including outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who addressed the matter on Good Morning Football.
“I think Ben’s gonna stick around until he personally decides to hang it up”, he said. “He’s one of those franchise type of quarterbacks and players. He’s embedded into the organization so far, and into the city as well. I think he’ll have the deciding factor of it he wants to continue to play or not”.
One factor that doesn’t get discussed as much is the interpersonal equation, and the reality is that Roethlisberger is the old guy in the room watching his closest teammates hang it up. Ramon Foster retired last year. Vance McDonald retired this year. Maurkice Pouncey is on the cusp of hanging it up as well.
“I think the older he gets, I see he starts to lose a lot of friends on the team”, Dupree noted. “The older guys coming in and leaving, there’s not many left with him, so it’s always a bummer when you look around and everyone you came in with is gone. He’s the oldest one on the team — kind of like a father figure. He’ll make that last deciding factor, and when the time comes, we ought to know”.
Right now, it’s hard to see past the 2021 season, truth be told, but Roethlisberger has essentially said in the past that he wants to play for as long as he feels he is helping his team win. I think he still feels that way now, but what will it look like at this time in 2022?