For teams that are fortunate enough to have one, or more than one, the eras of their organization are defined by their franchise quarterbacks. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a couple of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and they account for all of their championships. Terry Bradshaw led the dynasty of the 1970s.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet, but he will be five years after he retires. The question is, when is he going to retire? It’s clear that he has every intention of playing in 2021. But what about 2022? 2023?
Obviously, the fan consensus right now is that Roethlisberger is terrible, or at least not good enough to win a Super Bowl, and therefore has to go, but it is plausible that he continues to play beyond the 2021 season—and even plausible that he does so in Pittsburgh.
The length of his tenure with the team could also define the end-point for a lot of other personnel as well, especially those who have served long terms. One obvious candidate is general manager Kevin Colbert, who drafted Roethlisberger in 2004. He is approaching his mid-60s and operates on one-year contracts. But John Clayton expects him to stick around for at least as long as his quarterback does.
“Each year, Kevin Colbert just does one-year deals, and is on a one-year contract that’ll get renewed another year. Both are kind of taking it year to year, but I think Kevin stays at least through the Ben term”, he said on 93.7 The Fan earlier this week.
“Ben came back and got the 11 wins to start out the season. Certainly he struggled down the stretch”, he went on in discussing how Roethlisberger’s post-surgery 2020 season unfolded. “The whole offense struggled down the stretch. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he walks it in for a longer-term deal”.
I already wrote yesterday about Clayton’s remarks expressing his belief that Roethlisberger could realistically play beyond this next season, and intends to do so provided that he still feels as though he is playing at a high level.
So much also gets tied into the tenure of a franchise quarterback, though, and a long-time general manager departing along with his franchise quarterback would make a lot of sense. So, too, would a 15-year head coach, which is where Mike Tomlin is going to be heading into 2022.
And so we have two questions: how long will Roethlisberger’s tenure last from this point forward? And when his term finally ends—whether it’s 2022, 2023, or even tomorrow—how much collateral damage will come along with it?
Of course, Colbert is on record as stating very clear that he intends to take the rest of his career one year at a time. In fact, he is not even under contract for the 2021 season right now. His deal runs out at the end of the draft, so if he intends to stick around, he’ll need to do a new deal within the next couple of months.