The Steelers had 11 straight wins to start the 2020 NFL regular season, and everything seemed fine in Pittsburgh. The offense was humming with Ben Roethlisberger back in action after a right elbow injury kept him off the field for almost the entirety of the 2019 season.
And then the losing streak began. The Steelers lost three straight games of the week 13-15, falling to the Washington football team, Bills and the humble Bengals. The offense became predictable and the defenses moved towards the line of scrimmage, essentially challenging Roethlisberger to show that he could beat them deeply. Pittsburgh won the AFC North title, but the ending wasn’t exactly inspiring.
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Regardless of how far the Steelers may advance in the 2021 playoffs, it is now clear that they need to prepare for the end of the “Big Ben” era. Roethlisberger, 38, is the fourth-oldest quarterback to play this postseason behind Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. There are only so many shots left on that arm.
After the Steelers’ playoff streak ends, will Roethlisberger choose to hold out at least one more season? Or will Pittsburgh have to launch a new search for quarterbacks soon?
Will Ben Roethlisberger retire after the 2021 NFL playoffs?
Roethlisberger has not publicly stated how he will approach his decision, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported at the end of December that “except for a change of opinion, [Roethlisberger] he intends to fulfill the terms of a contract with one season remaining after this. “The 2021 season would be the 18th in the NFL.
While a comeback seems like the most likely outcome for the six-time Pro Bowler, it should be noted that Roethlisberger has seriously considered retirement before. His wife, Ashley, told Roethlisberger last season that she would understand if he wanted to get away from soccer instead of having elbow surgery and getting back on the field.
“I told him I was only going to say this once” Ashley said in the documentary series “Bigger than Ben”. “I wanted you to listen to me and then mark my words, I will not mention it again, but if you were happy with the career you have had and it was in your heart to finish, I would support you 100 percent in that. You do not have to worry about my feelings in all that. I want what he wants.
“So I was basically giving him permission to walk away if his heart was there, and I was going to support him in that. And he listened, and you could tell he really took it seriously and thought. And he said, ‘Thank you, But I don’t feel done. I’m not done. ‘
Steelers quarterback options if Ben Roethlisberger retires
Let’s say Roethlisberger changes his mind and tells the Steelers he’s done. How would they fill the void?
Mason Rudolph is under contract for one more year and had a good performance in the final of the regular season (315 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception against the Browns). Still, Rudolph is better known for getting hit on the head by Myles Garrett than for anything else he’s done in nine career starts. Pittsburgh may not trust Rudolph as the guy who will succeed Roethlisberger and keep the Steelers competing for the foreseeable future.
Pittsburgh could select a quarterback with its first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but if the front office wants to address other areas, there are options in the trade and free agency markets. Sam Darnold, Matthew Stafford or Carson Wentz may be available if the Steelers are willing to give up the necessary assets. They could also call free agent Dak Prescott just to gauge his level of interest. (Obviously, they would have to verify your medical information.)
That sounds like a really interesting offseason for the Steelers, but the reality is that Roethlisberger will likely remain at center unless he or the team unexpectedly concludes that he can no longer be “Big Ben.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.