Ron Cook: Steelers, Big Ben will stick together


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On his way to the shower Sunday after the Steelers' 23-10 win against the Buffalo Bills, Ben Roethlisberger made it a point to find team owner Dan Rooney. On his way back from the shower, Roethlisberger sought out team president Art Rooney II. His message to both was the same.

"I'm so sorry," Roethlisberger told the Rooneys. "This stuff didn't come from me or my people. There's absolutely no truth to it. It's ridiculous. It's one of the most BS stories that I've ever heard."

This was in response to a report Sunday morning on the NFL Network from insider Ian Rapoport.

"I'm told Ben Roethlisberger is not happy; incredibly frustrated with the direction the franchise is headed. He's frustrated with the coaches and not just [offensive coordinator] Todd Haley, which is why you should expect wholesale offensive changes in the offseason."

Rapoport went on to report that Steelers sources told him "to expect Roethlisberger to ask them in the offseason to explore possible trade options. I'm told the Steelers did field trade offers for Big Ben last offseason; they are expected to do so this offseason."

Both Rooneys told Roethlisberger they never tried to trade him and have no plans to do so.

"I'd retire before I'd accept a trade," Roethlisberger said. "I mean, it would have to be something really, really unbelievable for me to even consider it. I have talked to my wife about that. I don't want to be anywhere else. This is where we want to be."

By now, Roethlisberger was dressed and holding his son, Benjamin Jr., who will celebrate his first birthday later this month. His wife, Ashley, is pregnant with their second child and is expecting in the spring.

"This is where I want to raise my kids," Roethlisberger said. "I'm a Pittsburgher. I want to finish my career here, however long that is. I don't want to play for anybody else. This is it for me. This is home ...

"When I said I'll never quit last week, I meant it. I'll never quit on this season, this team or these fans. I'm going to stay on the ship. I don't care if we never win another game, I want to stay on the ship."

That's when Roethlisberger lost me just a bit. I believed everything he said to that last point.

Roethlisberger is as great a competitor as I've covered. That's why he keeps getting up after taking a beating game after game. He was sacked four times Sunday, making it 35 for the season. That's why he said he was thrilled that coach Mike Tomlin left him in late against the New England Patriots Nov. 3, long after the Patriots were on their way to a 55-31 win. "He would have had to call a timeout to get me out of there," Roethlisberger said. "I want to be out there fighting with my guys."

Roethlisberger is having a Hall of Fame career and is, in my opinion, the best quarterback in Steelers history. The win against the Bills made him 90-45 as a starter in the regular season and the fifth fastest of the Super Bowl era to get to 90 wins, behind Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Kenny Stabler. Counting the postseason, Roethlisberger's record is 100-49. He has led the Steelers to three Super Bowls, winning two.

"I want to keep winning games with these guys and this team," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger still has plenty of great football left even though he will be 32 in March and next season will be his 11th in the NFL. But he isn't going to be happy in a losing situation forever. The Steelers missed the playoffs last season and are 3-6 this season. Roethlisberger is signed for two more seasons. This offseason is usually when the Rooneys would negotiate an extension with him. If Roethlisberger determines the team is facing a major rebuilding project, he might re-consider the possibility of a trade. The Steelers also might re-consider a trade because Roethlisberger will continue to cost a fortune under the salary cap.

Not likely in either case, but possible.

NFL insider Mike Silver reported Sunday on the same NFL Network show that Roethlisberger wants to finish his career with the Steelers but "keep an eye on the Arizona Cardinals. His former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, the coach there, they love him there. They would be highly motivated to try and go get him."

Rapoport reported he was told by his source that the Steelers won't trade Roethlisberger -- "unless we could replace him with a franchise quarterback."

It's not every year that an Andrew Luck comes out of the NFL draft to replace a Peyton Manning. That's more like once-a-generation thing. Franchise quarterbacks are that difficult to find.

The Steelers know it.

Are you ready for the list of quarterbacks the Steelers used after Bradshaw retired after the 1983 season and Roethlisberger came along in 2004?

Mark Malone. David Woodley. Scott Campbell. Bubby Brister. Steve Bono. Reggie Collier. Todd Blackledge. Rick Strom. Neil O'Donnell. Mike Tomczak. Jim Miller. Kordell Stewart. Mike Quinn. Pete Gonzalez. Kent Graham. Tommy Maddox. Charlie Batch.

There's a 99.9 percent chance Roethlisberger will finish his career with the Steelers.

I'd say 100 percent, but there are no absolutes in football or in life.

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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