They say you never really know what you have until it’s gone. I don’t know who said it or where it originated, but it really does make a lot of sense with things in life.
But we’re not here to talk about life. We’re here to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have had two players retire in the offseason so far for 2020. Add in the number of unrestricted free agents who are ready to hit the open market come March, the Steelers roster is going to look much different than it has in the past.
Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the Steelers haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 10 years, change is necessary. We, as fans, just hope it’s the right changes in order to get to the Steelers to the promised land. But as changes come, there will be things with the Steelers we will never see again.
I was at Troy Polamalu’s final game of his NFL career when the Steelers lost to the Ravens at Heinz Field in the 2014 postseason. After missing the previous two games due to injury, seeing Polamalu on the field and unable to do some things he had done throughout his career made me understand I may have just witnessed his last game in the NFL. Not only was it awful because the Steelers lost, it was disheartening that the legend’s time might have been coming to an end. But in that moment, I realized what it was I was witnessing.
During the 2015 postseason when the Steelers came up short in Denver, I’m sure there were not many Steelers’ fans who realized it would be their last chance to see Heath Miller wearing the Black & Gold. When Miller opened the scoring in Week 17 at Cleveland with a 2-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers fans had no idea they were witnessing Miller‘s last touchdown of his career.
I have an even more tragic story outside of the Steelers organization when on October 21, 2007, I took my father to an NFL game in Washington where the Redskins faced the Arizona Cardinals. As we watched Neil Rackers’ 55 yard field goal to win the game for the Cardinals go wide right, we did not realize the significance of a play we witnessed not even half way through the first quarter when Sean Taylor intercepted Kurt Warner in what would be Taylor‘s last of his 12 NFL interceptions. A little over a month later, the two-time Pro Bowl safety would be shot and killed in his own house during a home invasion.
Two players from the Steelers 2020 team we know for sure we won’t get to witness them again are tight and Vance McDonald and center Maurkice Pouncey. Even though McDonald did not have a touchdown in the 2020 season, knowing there was the potential for his 75-yard touchdown known more for the stiff arm than for the actual points scored.
As for Pouncey, although some will know him for his errant snap to start his final game, there is a lot that can be appreciated during his time with the Steelers. Seeing him and Ben Roethlisberger enjoy a final moment together before heading off the field made some Steelers fans realize they just witnessed the end of a ten-year run between the center and the quarterback.
With more decisions coming soon for other players on the Steelers, I am causing myself to remember the moments that they gave to me as a fan, and hopefully appreciate any more they could possibly give. Talking specifically about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, little did I realize when I was unable to sell my tickets to the Week 15 matchup in 2018 at Heinz Field against the New England Patriots that it very well could be the last time I saw Rothlisberger quarterback and Steelers in person. Between his season-ending elbow surgery after Week 2 of 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic keeping fans out of stadiums in 2020, I never imagined it was possibly the last time seeing Roethlisberger play in person. Of course, I also didn’t realize it was the last time I would see Antonio Brown in a Steelers uniform.
Have I seen Ben Roethlisberger play his last snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Right now we do not know if this is the case or not. Roethlisberger has multiple reasons to either call it a career or come back for one more season. If it is the last time Ben Roethlisberger commands the huddle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I will appreciate all the memories he has given me since the Steelers selected him 11th overall in 2004. Should Rothlisberger come back next season, I will remind myself during every game that I should appreciate each moment as it could be the last.
How would I love to see Troy Polamalu dive over the line one more time as he perfectly timed the snap and took down the unsuspecting quarterback. I’d love to see one more completion to Heath Miller where the fans at Heinz Field could scream “HEEEAAATH!” with it actually being Miller making the catch. There are too many NFL fans that think about what Sean Taylor’s NFL career could have been had his life not been tragically cut short.
If Ben Roethlisberger does return for the 2021 season, I hope it’s in a manner to where we can appreciate all that he is doing before calling it a career. I hope 2021 adds more to the great memories he has given Steelers’ fans, and when we look back years down the road we can talk about the 2021 season with fond memories. More importantly, I hope we can appreciate the Steelers’ memories we get each and every game as they occur.