Ben Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, league sources told ESPN.
Roethlisberger has not made any such public proclamations, and likely won’t, as he doesn’t want the latter part of the season to be about him as Pittsburgh prepares to make a playoff push.
But he and those within the organization are now operating as if he is entering the final five games of his Hall-of-Fame career, with two of them fittingly coming against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh’s opponent Sunday and in the final regular-season game as well.
Roethlisberger is in his 18th season and the final year of his contract, he is 39 years old and turns 40 in March, and has seen all his quarterback draft classmates such as Eli Manning and Philip Rivers move on to the next chapters of their lives. He is expected to be next.
Roethlisberger has told many that he never would want to play anywhere other than Pittsburgh, where his time is coming to an end. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t surface next season in another NFL city, but that is “highly unlikely,” according to one source.
And that would mean that this is expected to cap the career of one of the Steelers’ all-time greatest players. Roethlisberger will leave the franchise with more wins, touchdown passes and passing yards than any quarterback in Steelers history.
His 410 career touchdown passes entering Sunday’s game are eighth most in NFL history. His 62,870 passing yards are sixth in NFL history. His 161 career wins are fifth in NFL history.
The fact that this is expected to be the final NFL season for the six-time Pro-Bowler does not come as a surprise to many around the organization. They felt that last season could have been Roethlisberger’s last and, in a way, the team even seemed to prepare for that, turning over much of its roster on the offensive side of the football this season and already transitioning to the future there.
The Steelers have, on average, the youngest offensive roster in the league, with rookies manning the center and left tackle positions, and at running back and tight end. Pittsburgh has begun to move ahead at the other offensive positions, just not quarterback.
Though the Steelers have quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins on their roster, there are questions about whether either will be the one to succeed Roethlisberger.
At 5-5-1, the Steelers will need one final postseason push to give Roethlisberger one more opportunity to try to add to the two Super Bowl titles that he already has helped bring to Pittsburgh.