Is frustration getting the better of Ben Roethlisberger?
January 25, 2017 12:00 AM
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a frustrating AFC championship game on Sunday.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“I’ve always said, I’ll play until the good Lord or Mr. Rooney says I can’t.”
Those words were spoken by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger July 26, 2015, as his 12th training camp began.
One year later, at the start of his most recent training camp, he said he had cut back on his weight training in the offseason to “try to prolong my career if I can.”
And now he’s thinking of retiring? We don’t know if Roethlisberger, who turns 35 March 2, received a message from the good Lord, but guaranteed neither of the Mr. Rooneys has told him he can’t play.
So, why did he say the following Tuesday on 93.7 The Fan?
“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season — if there’s going to be a next season.”
It is the first time he expressed such thoughts publicly, but coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that it’s not the first time he has told him as much, that he had done so previously.
A veteran teammate of Roethlisberger also told me, “I’ve heard that before.”
Chuck Noll famously said that if you’re thinking of retiring, you’ve already retired. That would not seem to fit Roethlisberger because his play has not declined and because he has never acted as if he is ready to quit.
He has said his goal is to finish with more Super Bowl rings than any Steelers quarterback. That might not be within reach now, but they came as close this year as they have since their most recent Super Bowl visit six years ago and there’s no reason they cannot compete for a berth in 2017.
Perhaps the frustration of coming that close had something to do with it. Brett Favre said as much Tuesday and he knows a little bit about why a quarterback thinks of retiring.
“What he is feeling, I assume, is, ‘the last thing I want to think about right now is football,’ because you take the loss so, so personal, as you should,’’ Favre said on Sirius XM NFL Radio.
“Take aside the physical part of it, I don’t know how he feels physically. He looks like he’s playing better than he’s ever played, so I think it’s a mental thing. I would say, my opinion, is in three, four months, he will be totally different. He will be recharged and he will want to redeem this year.”
There could be added frustration for Roethlisberger watching young receivers without much pedigree dropping deep passes (Sammie Coates) and touchdown passes (Cobi Hamilton) and fumbling away passes that were caught (Eli Rogers). There might be frustration that the Steelers offense just does not have enough talent at wide receiver after Antonio Brown. He did, after all, suggest after the loss Sunday in New England that the game might have been too big for some of the young receivers.
There also could be frustration with his coaches, with the antics of Brown and with his football career clock ticking while coming up short again.
Or maybe his words should be taken at face value, that he is thinking of retiring. If he did, there is not one good fallback position for the Steelers at quarterback for 2017. They would be left scrambling to re-sign Landry Jones and start him, draft a quarterback in a year in which the candidates are not strong and start him, find a starter in free agency or trade for a starter.
No one in the organization seems to be taking Roethlisberger’s radio pronouncement seriously, but he still will have to explain his thoughts when he meets with Tomlin later this week and perhaps Art Rooney II as well.
You can count on Roethlisberger playing in 2017 and maybe a few years beyond, but his words Tuesday provided an opportunity for those inside and out of the Steelers to think about this: What will football be like for them without Roethlisberger? They might even prompt them to advance their planning for when that day occurs.
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