Reports circulated late last week that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been informing people close to him that this would be his final season in the NFL as the Steelers’ quarterback. It’s pretty much the game’s worst-kept secret, because frankly virtually nobody actually thinks that he is going to be here after this season.
Nevertheless, I do think that the report hitting the wires did kind of have the effect of having the finality sink in. We are perhaps down to the final five games of the Ben Roethlisberger era, which has led to a lot of wins, including two championships, and a lot of exhilarating, if not excruciating, Sundays.
If this is his final season, then he at least had one more excellent fourth-quarter comeback on this day, leading his offense to 17 points in the final period to beat the Baltimore Ravens, at home inside of Heinz Field—and in front of our own Girl Surgeon, Melanie Friedlander, who also got to see T.J. Watt tie James Harrison’s single-season all-time franchise sack record.
As would be expected, though, Roethlisberger was asked about reports that, as the question was framed, he’s “told everybody that you’re going to be gone after this season”. He responded, “Well, I haven’t told everybody that. Honestly, we just got done with this game, I’m exhausted, and we play in a couple hours, it feels like. That’s my focus. My focus is on Minnesota, and what we have to do to get ready”.
“I’ll address any of that stuff after the season. I’ve always been a one-game-at-a-time, one-season-at-a-time person. I’m gonna stay that way”, he added. “I’ve been doing it for a long time. I’ve enjoyed this game, and this game specifically. Winning at home in front of our fans, it’s awesome”.
The Steelers are now 6-5-1 and back into playoff contention, within one game of a Wildcard spot, and a game and a half behind the Ravens for the AFC North lead, should they be so lucky. I’m sure Roethlisberger wants his last game in Pittsburgh to take place in the postseason.
After all, the Steelers have lost their last three games in the postseason, their last win coming in 2016. That’s not how you want to end your tenure as a Hall of Fame quarterback for a storied franchise. He knows there is a lot of work to do if he wants to change that story.
But at least for now, he’s not indulging in the speculation. Nobody involved with the Steelers has said anything publicly about the 2021 season being the last for Roethlisberger; the door has always been left at least ajar, even if few expect it to ever open.