The Pittsburgh Steelers were a team who got fortunate this offseason. Staring at a long list of free agents the team was able to retain the vast majority of those pending free agents. A large reason why they were able to do so was due to Ben Roethlisberger taking a pay cut.
Sure, the Steelers had to add void years at the end of his contract, but Roethlisberger did whatever it took to help out the organization who drafted him in 2004. The thing about void years, is it doesn’t necessarily equate to an end to a contract, but gives the organization an out if they choose they want to move on.
Will this be Ben Roethlisberger’s final year in the black and gold, or will he decide to continue playing after 2021? According to JuJu Smith-Schuster, he believes it is Roethlisberger’s final go-around.
“Being able to play with Ben again for one more year … I believe right now on paper it is his last one. I think it is,” Smith-Schuster told InsideHook. “He’s done so much for me over the past four years. I had an opportunity to go to two different teams with two young quarterbacks who have tremendous careers ahead of them. But as far as Ben, this year is special because it’ll be his last. He had a tremendous career for 15-plus years and it would be great to go out with a W.”
Whether this is Roethlisberger’s final year or not, there is a good chance it is Smith-Schuster’s. And he understands what it means to play with a quarterback of Roethlisberger’s caliber.
“In my time playing football, I’ve had some good quarterbacks over the years, but I think Ben is by far the best one,” Smith-Schuster said. “You don’t get those opportunities for very long. He was telling me I have 17 games with him during the regular season. It goes fast. So for me, it’s definitely motivation to play my heart out for him and the team. Every time I step on the field, I’ve got to play like it’s my last play, because I don’t want to leave nothing on the field that I shouldn’t have.”
Of course, the interview went back to the Steelers’ final game of 2020 when they were embarrassed at Heinz Field against their division rival Cleveland Browns.
“Going into the Browns game, I don’t think we came out hungry in the first five minutes. They were just more hungry. There were more dogs than us,” he said. “We fought back, but it wasn’t enough to win the game and we fell short. I think a lot of the time, we saw the minor mistakes we had were just adding up to these bigger pictures. What I can take from last year into this year is that you’ve got to keep playing. You got to keep fighting until the whistle blows and attention to detail is where it’s at.”
Whether this is Roethlisberger’s last season will ultimately come down to Roethlisberger’s desire to play, and the Steelers organization desire to have him back. Both of those decisions are likely to not be decided until after the 2021 season plays out.
In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.