Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned 36 on March 2, a birthday that didn't involve as much anxiety for fans as when he turned 35 one year earlier.
If you'll recall, it was almost immediately after Pittsburgh's 2016-17 playoff run ended in the AFC Championship game at the hands of the Patriots, when Roethlisberger went on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan and hinted at retirement.
This threw everyone—including me—into panic mode wondering if the often diva-like quarterback meant it, or if he was simply being a diva.
As the months went by, and Roethlisberger had yet to commit to returning, the urgency set in that maybe Pittsburgh should draft a quarterback in the first round. This led to many articles, complete with rankings of each college prospect, being written on the subject (Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech appeared to be at the top of most wish lists).
Even after No. 7 finally made it official last April, speculation on his future continued; it continued all throughout training camp, and into the season. In fact, right after throwing five interceptions in a 21-point loss to the Jaguars in Week 5, Roethlisberger said something along the lines of, "Maybe I don't have it anymore."
Speaking of Jacksonville, it was right around the time of the playoff rematch at Heinz Field that Roethlisberger began hinting he would be back for more football—regardless of the final score, which was a 45-42 season-ending loss.
Immediately after the game, Roethlisberger confirmed he would be back for the following season, while his teammates said that he said he plans on playing three more years.
Days later, offensive coordinator Todd Haley was sent packing for Cleveland and the same gig with the Browns, a move that seemed to coincide much too perfectly with Roethlisberger's new-found love for the great game of football.
Now, with all the smoke cleared out of town, it doesn't take a genius to figure out Roethlisberger's main bone of contention with his job status the previous few seasons had more to do with his working relationship with Haley—maybe he gave him anxiety attacks similar to the ones Michael Scott gave Stanley in that one episode of The Office—than it did with his family and the rigors of professional football.
I don't care where he's getting it from, this rejuvenated spirit, I'm just glad Roethlisberger will be around for a little while longer.
Unlike last year, when I was quite defensive about the prospects of the Steelers drafting a quarterback in the first round, I really don't mind this sudden love for Louisville's Lamar Jackson—or the 2018 version of Patrick Mahomes, as he's known around my apartment.
If Pittsburgh selects Jackson—or any quarterback—28th overall, cool.
If the Steelers feel the need to groom Roethlisberger's replacement, that's fine. Hey, I hope they find the guy to step right in in (hopefully) 2021 and pick up where the future Hall-of-Famer leaves off.
I just know that whenever Roethlisberger does finally call it a career, Pittsburgh's chances of championship success will likely plummet.
And this is why I'm just so grateful for everything that has happened for the Steelers since they—with a bit of nudging from the late Mr. Rooney—made Roethlisberger the 11th overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft.
You can do a lot of things in the NFL, but history shows it's virtually impossible to win a Super Bowl without a franchise-level quarterback leading the way.
Sure, there were lots of important contributors to Pittsburgh's two championships in the 00's, such as the running back who rushed for a 75-yard touchdown against the Seahawks, the linebacker who returned an interception 100 yards against the Cardinals, and the safety who amazed us each and every week with his other-worldly talents.
But that quarterback, he brings it all together. As we found out in the 90's, you can have the greatest car in the world, but without a skilled driver behind the wheel, you will only get so far.
So, with some age-defying examples to draw inspiration from in recent years, such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, I just hope Roethlisberger continues to have the drive to succeed and make history in Pittsburgh.
Roethlisberger has a great offensive line that protects him, the best weapons in football and, now, a coordinator he can (hopefully) get along with.
It might be a little nippy out in Pittsburgh (don't worry, it actually means cold here), but the window for championship success remains open because No. 7 said he likes it that way.