When the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking at their upcoming roster heading into the 2021 regular season, they had to make some tough decisions at the quarterback position. They had Mason Rudolph under contract, and so was Dwayne Haskins at the time. But Ben Roethlisberger loomed over the team with his future very much uncertain.
As the team prepares for training camp just days away, starting their preparations for the 2022 regular season, fans of the team know what happened in 2021. Roethlisberger took a pay cut and returned for one final run with the team. The season ended with a playoff berth, and even though a Super Bowl wasn’t won, all’s well that ends well, right?
Well, not so much, according to Roethlisberger.
In an interview with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger talked about how the Steelers’ front office was split with his return last season.
“It was mostly Kevin [Colbert]. He was ready to move on.” Roethlisberger said. “I think Mike [Tomlin] was a little ready to move on, but I think he was OK with me coming back. I think Mr. [Art] Rooney really wanted me to come back last year to play.”
Regardless, Roethlisberger played, and didn’t play as poorly as many thought. Ultimately, Roethlisberger was able to go out on his own terms. Oh, and he still feels like he is able to play the game.
“I thought I went out on my terms. I never wanted to stay too long. I know some people might think I did. ‘You stayed last year.’ But I thought I played pretty well last year, to be honest. My arm feels like I still could go out and play. I’m pretty confident I could still play. But it’s every day. It’s mental. Not having to prepare for camp and the season has been the biggest blessing for me. I’m fine with where I’m at with everything.”
Roethlisberger’s final season might not have been the storybook ending many had hoped, but it was special in many aspects. In fact, when asked what his favorite non-Super Bowl game of his career was, he said it was the Week 17 game on Monday Night Football when the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns on primetime to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“My last game at Heinz Field.” Roethlisberger recalled. “That game was so incredibly special. That night was special. The fans. My family. The Browns. Monday Night Football. It couldn’t have been a sweeter way for me to go out.”
It is unclear how Roethlisberger truly views the Steelers as he heads into retirement. Many former stars were left feeling unwanted as their careers came to an end. Both Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu felt as if they still had some years left in their career, but were left with a “play elsewhere, or retire” ultimatum from the organization. At this point Roethlisberger feels as if he was able to go out on his own terms, and the hope is he doesn’t harbor any ill will towards the organization like Terry Bradshaw did for so many years.
In the meantime, Mike Tomlin and new General Manager Omar Khan have a season to prepare for, without Roethlisberger in the mix for the first time since 2004.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.