Steelers president Art Rooney II doesn’t speak to the media often, but when he does, he carries a big stick of logical rhetoric.
Rooney spoke to reporters on Tuesday, and the big nugget to come out of said meeting was his thoughts on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the organization:
“It’s not written in stone that this is his (Roethlisberger’s) last year,” said Rooney in a quote courtesy of ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. “We’re aware this could be Ben’s last year,” Rooney continued. “We hope it’s a great one. That’s as far as we can go with it right now. Obviously, if this is his last year, then next year we’ll be making decisions on a quarterback, and we’ll address it as the time comes up.”
Perfect. That’s why Rooney is the man....who writes the checks. He left the door open for his veteran quarterback but acknowledged that he might have to change the locks and place an ad for a new franchise signal-caller.
That’s how it’s done in the covering your butt business.
General manager Kevin Colbert also isn’t ruling out anything for 2022, “We’ll just work with 2021 and see where it goes from there.” Neither is the big guy, himself, “I'm going to approach this like I do every season—like it’s my last.”
It’s easy for me to just assume Roethlisberger will retire in 2022. It’s easy for you to do the same. Media members can also retire Roethlisberger to a rocking chair next season.
None of us really have a dog in the fight. We might think we do, but we absolutely do not.
The Steelers are the only ones who have to live with any decision they make.
That’s why, much like Bruno Mars, they will leave that door open for a possible Roethlisberger return next season.
Having an accomplished veteran franchise quarterback is like owning an old car. Sure, there are many miles on it, and things are beginning to break down. But, gosh darn it, you haven’t had a car payment in years (I know, bad analogy considering what Big Ben has banked), and it’s just so reliable.
Besides, you just never know what lemon you may get talked into next.
What if Roethlisberger is really good in 2021? I’m talking so good, people are throwing fits that he’s never mentioned as an MVP candidate? You, the fan, may still be ready to move on from Roethlisberger, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl, but the Steelers are well aware that a true franchise quarterback comes along once every 20 years or so (and it took them 37 years to even find their first one).
The last thing they’d probably want is for Roethlisberger to finish out his career elsewhere, a la Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. It would likely have nothing to do with sentimentality, either, considering those three went on to achieve good-to-great things after leaving their original homes.
Believe me, the Steelers don’t want to see Roethlisberger still playing at a high level for another team, while they’re trying to figure out if Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins or a future draft choice is No. 7’s successor.
For his part, Roethlisberger probably doesn’t want to make anything official before he has to, either. He has a wife and kids to think about. Generational wealth or no generational wealth, I doubt it’s easy to just up and move a family on a whim because Daddy wants to go finish out his career in Denver, Los Angeles or Green Bay (it would be just like him to do that third one for spite).
Everyone involved must continue to say the right things and do the right things until Roethlisberger calls it a career. My old boss used to say, “Don’t start the clock until you see the whites of the client’s eyes.”
It would be foolish for the Steelers to assume anything about Ben Roethlisberger’s future until they see him sitting in front of a microphone and talking about getting on with his life’s work.