In spite of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are still fighting for their playoff lives, the story of the moment right now is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he gets set for what is likely going to be the final time that he ever plays a game inside of Heinz Field.
Barring a Steelers division title this season, which would require the Cincinnati Bengals losing their final two games, or the possibility of him actually playing beyond the 2022 season, Monday night’s showdown against the Cleveland Browns will be the curtain call in Pittsburgh for Big Ben, who helped bring two more Lombardis to the city.
Because if this is well and truly it, then that’s going to be it. Roethlisberger has already talked about how he has no interest or desire to play anywhere else, the way his draft classmate, Philip Rivers, did last year with the Indianapolis Colts following a long career with the Chargers.
Asked yesterday if he would be interested in coming in for a spell in the even that the Steelers find themselves desperate for a quarterback—there have been reports that the Colts have reached out to Rivers this past week with Carson Wentz going on the Reserve/COVID-19 List—his response was a short and simple “No”.
Roethlisberger’s 18 seasons with the Steelers figure to go down as the longest start-to-finish career for any quarterback with one single team in NFL history. Tom Brady, of course, spent a longer period of time with the New England Patriots, but is now in his second of presumably 20 seasons he will play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And it’s also undeniable that he has seen diminishing returns in his play, particularly following his major elbow injury in 2019, which required extensive surgery to reattach multiple tendons in his throwing arm. He regularly acknowledges his arthritic knees, and alludes to how while his repaired elbow might not be bothering him, everything else is.
“I don’t think they’ll ask for me to come back”, Roethlisberger did add to his response. “I think I’ve been here long enough”.
Pending the final two games, Roethlisberger will retire with a career 163-81-1 record in the regular season, and a 13-9 postseason record with three Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories, and five AFC Championship Game appearances.
There have certainly been worse careers. While most are ready and eager to move on to the next chapter—for better or worse—the reality of this chapter coming to a close is increasingly beginning to set in after the quarterback’s most direct public acknowledgement yesterday.