A little over four months after hanging up his cleats for the final time and clearing out his locker inside Heinz Field, former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has settled into the role of stay-at-home Dad for his children, preparing lunches, driving them to school, and picking them up at the end of the day.
Things seem fine overall for Roethlisberger after 18 seasons at the helm of the Steelers’ offense in a Hall of Fame career. However, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Steelers Insider Gerry Dulac hinted Wednesday during his weekly reader chat on the PG’s website that there may be some bad blood between Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ organization for the way his retirement was handled, similarly to how Troy Polamalu felt years ago.
A reader named Billy Bob asked Dulac the following: Is there bad blood between the Steelers and Big Ben with how his career ended. Was he ready to retire or was it a Troy type situation where he was forced into it?
Polamalu was forced to the retirement list in April of 2015, long after free agency took place. He was under contract and could not sign with another team unless the Steelers released him. Ben was a free agent at the start of the new league year in March. Yinz bad at your jobs. https://t.co/FxTYqivVtE
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) May 11, 2022
Dulac, in typical fashion, failed to truly expand on his answer, stating “I would say it’s very very safe to assume that,” which is essentially seeing a chance to ignite a bonfire, lighting a match, stepping back and tossing the match before walking away. Dulac knew what he was doing here with this answer, which will surely create some discussion amongst the fanbase.
When Polamalu retired from the Steelers, the belief then that was later confirmed was that he was forced into retirement, rather than being released so he could go and play one final season with the Tennessee Titans and then-defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Polamalu stayed away from the Steelers for years after being forced into retirement, never coming back for celebrations of jersey retirements for former Steelers’ greats.
He eventually put that all behind him prior to being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer, reuniting him with a franchise and fanbase that has meant so much to him throughout his career.
“What I could say is, without a shadow of a doubt, I’m so grateful to the organization,” Polamalu said prior to being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Was it my decision to end a Steeler? It was not, but I’m so grateful because it was absolutely the most perfect time for me to retire. It took me a while to definitely realize that, probably like six months.”
With Roethlisberger, the same situation may have happened, though we might never get the full story. It was clear Roethlisberger’s physical state was deteriorating quickly — at least with his lower half — and he wasn’t a fit in Matt Canada’s offensive scheme in Year 1. After a career that saw him in the spotlight quite a bit, especially from a vocal standpoint with the media, Roethlisberger went out with a relative whimper, announcing his retirement in a two-minute, 15-second video with his wife and children around him.
Ben Roethlisberger officially announces his retirement
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 27, 2022
Now, Dulac hints at animosity between the franchise icon and the organization itself.
Dulac’s comments come a week after Roethlisberger appeared on the 102.5 WDVE morning show with Randy Baumann and stated that he was content with retirement and didn’t think Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin or GM Kevin Colbert would want him back.
“Well, I tell you what, first off, my Coach and GM don’t want me back,” Roethlisberger said, according to audio via iHeart radio. “Second of all, I’m pretty content with where I’m at. Being a bus driver, making lunches in the morning, that’s pretty good job.”
Maybe there is some truth to that regarding Tomlin and Colbert turning the page on Roethlisberger, rather than the player turning the page on his career overall. After all, there is precedent from the Steelers and essentially forcing players into retirement, rather than letting them play out the string.
Of course, when Polamalu retired, he had another two years remaining on his contract, while Roethlisberger’s contract was set to void five days after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, making him a free agent. It’s certainly possible Roethlisberger wanted to return for one more season, especially knowing what the Steelers were going to be able to do in free agency to rebuild the offensive line, but the Steelers clearly turned the page.
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) May 11, 2022
The fact of the matters remains this: Roethlisberger is a free agent, and if he wants to continue playing football in the NFL, he can, so long as another team wants him. Is Roethlisberger mad that the Steelers didn’t want to get back on the roller coaster that was the 7 experience in 2021 for 2022? It’s possible. But they made a business decision in the end. Nothing was forced one way or another.
We’ll see if more comes out regarding Roethlisberger and the organization having some bad blood. It could also be yet another case of Dulac foolishly speculating, which seems more plausible than the Steelers actually forcing Roethlisberger to sit at home for the rest of his life.