A 48-37 beatdown at the hands of the Cleveland Browns is not the way the Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to end the 2020 season, after beginning with an 11-0 record for the first time in franchise history. For players where retirement was a possibility, that loss was even more important, because that’s not how they wanted their careers to end. Among those players was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, just completing his 17th season.
Normally one to take some time to decide whether to return or retire, as he has in past offseasons, Roethlisberger wasted no time letting his franchise know he was ready for an 18th season.
“I felt it was the right thing to do, if I wanted to play. I felt relatively healthy, all things considered at the end of a season. It just felt like I had more in the tank, and just felt disappointed about the way the season ended obviously, and hate to go out that way,” Roethlisberger said when speaking with the media after OTAs Tuesday. “So just want to let them know that if they wanted me back, I felt like I could give them everything I’ve got.”
It was a rough end to 2020 for Pittsburgh’s long-time QB, who battled inconsistency, averaged the fewest yards per attempt (6.3) of his career, and had his fewest passing yards of a 15+ game season since 2008. For a quarterback seventh all-time in passing yards and eighth all-time in touchdowns, that’s not the final stat line his career deserved. Roethlisberger shouldered the responsibility on Tuesday for his performance, and how it affected the team’s end to the season.
“I didn’t play well enough at the end of the season. It’s no secret, and I’ll be the first to point the thumb at myself. When the balls’ in your hadn’t every play, you have to make plays and play better football,” Roethlisberger said. “If the quarterback myself is not playing good football, that, especially late in the season, is directly related to winning and those things. So I’ll take that playoff and those games on me as just feeling worn down, not playing good enough football at the end of the season.”
The discussion of Roethlisberger returning has existed in past offseasons, and will exist this coming winter as he wraps up an 18th season and ponders a 19th. With the Steelers strongly projected to seek out his successor in the first round, could Roethlisberger follow the mold of his fellow 2004 first-round pick Phillip Rivers and rival Tom Brady, and leave his long-time team for a final year(s) elsewhere?
Don’t hold your breath for Big Ben to wear pewter like Brady is, or the Colts’ blue and white like Rivers did to end his career. His desire to be a lifelong player with one team is part of the reason why he was quick to let the franchise know he was back for 2021.
“I’m black and gold through and through. I didn’t want to go anywhere. That’s why I told the Rooneys and Coach Tomlin, I want to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Roethlisberger said. “This is home to me. I’ll always bleed black and gold.”