A few weeks ago, stories surfaced that the Pittsburgh Pirates would consider signing star center fielder and 2013 NL MVP, Andrew McCutchen, to a mega-contract extension down-the-road, an extension that would pay him the salary befitting a star of his magnitude and also keep him in Pittsburgh his entire career.
While this was mostly met with positive opinions, some people thought this would be unwise, and that paying a player roughly $20,000,000 a season well into his 30s would be bad for business and could prevent the small market franchise from signing future stars and keeping them in Pittsburgh when they would still be in their prime. But, simply from a fan-perspective, I almost want the Pirates to break the bank and keep Cutch in town for his entire career. As a die-hard fan of the team who has witnessed stars the caliber of Barry Bonds leave town and go-on to have even greater success elsewhere, it would be nice to watch McCutchen enjoy a Willie Stargell-like career with the Pirates, complete with a final season where the media and fans can give him the send-off he would deserve if he continues to have the great career he's already enjoyed since becoming a major league player in 2009.
Speaking of contract extensions, the one Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger signed on Friday should, in-fact, keep the 33 year old in black and gold until he's ready to call it a career. While it was certainly no surprise to see the quarterback reach an accord with his bosses, the news was still very-much appreciated. It's easy to become jaded with the business-side of modern sports, where you almost expect players to leave when they become free-agents or get released when either their skills diminish or their employer simply doesn't want to honor the rest of their contract.
When it comes to recent stars such as Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, James Harrison and Brett Keisel, while they'll always be loved and adored in Pittsburgh, none of them can say they were able to leave on their own terms. And some of them, such as Ward, even entertained the thought of playing elsewhere. Nothing wrong with that, as a person has the right to play a sport as long as he wants. Like Ward told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette last week in a story about Troy Polamalu perhaps playing elsewhere if he's released by the Steelers: "who are we to tell him to retire if he still has a passion for it?"
Maybe Polamalu will remain with the Steelers, announce his intentions to retire in a season or two, and get the send-off suitable for a player so popular and loved by the fans and who was one of the main pieces to the most-recent Super Bowl success. However, there's also the very-real possibility Polamalu could go the way of Franco Harris and Rod Woodson and finish his career with another organization. There's also the sad possibility that he could language in free-agency and not even entertain any serious offers. If that were to happen, he'd probably come back to Pittsburgh in a year or two and announce his official retirement as a Steeler at a press conference at the team's offices. While the fans would certainly celebrate his career on social media, it wouldn't be quite the same as leaving Heinz Field, with the crowd chanting his name and showering him with so much love.
While Ward got the press conference in the spring of 2012, Jerome Bettis, the legendary running back who played in Pittsburgh for 10 of his 13 Hall of Fame seasons, got showered with chants of "One more year!" in his last game at Heinz Field on January 1, 2006.
But even the Bus didn't start his career in Pittsburgh (he came to the Steelers in a trade in 1996 after playing his first three seasons with the Rams).
Roethlisberger, despite all the trouble earlier in his career that was mostly his doing, now will likely remain in Pittsburgh for the duration. As the business-side of sports has left the majority of the most-recent Super Bowl stars without a fitting send-off on the field, Roethlisberger may remain as the one-shining symbol of the success the team enjoyed in the 2000s.
But the Steelers didn't agree to pay Roethlisberger an additional $99,000,000 for sentimental reasons; they did so with the hopes that he can continue to play his position as well as few can in the NFL. And if he can continue to do that, maybe he can bridge the gap between past Super Bowl championships and future Super Bowl titles.
Regardless, while nothing is set in stone (Peyton Manning was released by the Colts three years ago), it will be nice to watch Ben Roethlisberger play-out his career with the Steelers and hopefully enjoy a future send-off befitting a player who has meant so much to his organization.