Ben Roethlisberger may be retired, but that won’t stop the former Steelers quarterback from claiming he still has the ability to ‘go out and play.’
After the Pittsburgh Steelers were humiliated by the Browns in the Wild Card round of the playoffs following the 2020 season, there were many who thought we might have seen the last of Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran’s play at the quarterback position had dropped off and he was reportedly contemplating retirement.
However, the long-time franchise quarterback ultimately decided to return to the field one more time in 2021. Though he didn’t say so at the time, we would later find out that this wasn’t a decision Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin were completely on board with.
According to Ron Cook of Post-Gazette Sports, former general manager Kevin Colbert was ‘ready to move on’ from Big Ben, while Mike Tomlin was apparently on the fence. Ultimately, it sounded like Art Rooney II was the one who really wanted Roethlisberger to come back and play in 2021.
Here are some of Roethlisberger’s comments on entering his final season, according to Cook:
"“It was mostly Kevin [Colbert]. He was ready to move on. I think Mike [Tomlin] was a little ready to move on, but I think he was OK with me coming back. I think Mr. [Art] Rooney really wanted me to come back last year to play. …“I thought I went out on my terms. I never wanted to stay too long. I know some people might think I did. ‘You stayed last year.’ But I thought I played pretty well last year, to be honest. My arm feels like I still could go out and play. I’m pretty confident I could still play. But it’s every day. It’s mental. Not having to prepare for camp and the season has been the biggest blessing for me. I’m fine with where I’m at with everything.”"
After his up-and-down 2020 season, it was clear that Ben didn’t get the consensus approval to return for his age-39 season in 2021, but Art Rooney II ultimately had the final say. Last year would prove to be his last with the team and it was clear that the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback just didn’t have it anymore… but don’t tell him that.
To this day, Roethlisberger still claims that his arm feels good and that he’s confident he could still go out there and play. But playing and playing well are two very different things.
The sun had set on Ben Roethlisberger’s career
As training camp is set to kick off without him for the first time in 19 years, Ben Roethlisberger has made peace with his retirement. His statements are clear that he’s not attempting a comeback; rather simply expressing confidence in himself that he could still get out there if he needed to.
It’s clear that Big Ben loved the game and he obviously had a hard time letting go. However, the sun had quite clearly set on Roethlisberger’s career. This was very evident in 2021.
In his final season in the NFL last year, Roethlisberger’s efficiency took a fatal nosedive. He finished 30th in the NFL in yards per attempt, 27th in adjusted yards per attempt, 32nd in air yards per attempt, 29th in deep-ball completion percentage, 30th in play-action completion percentage, 25th in red zone completion percentage, and 27th in clean-pocket completion percentage, according to Player Profiler.
This equated to a 71.0 true passer rating — good for 27th in the league last year. His raw statistics (3,740 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) helped mask how inefficient Ben’s play truly was last season.
The tape doesn’t lie. Despite some respectable performances, the overall sample from 2021 was near the bottom of quarterbacks in the league. Perhaps what was most telling is that he simply didn’t have the arm to push the ball down the field and he was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league in completed air yards, via Next Gen Stats.
Steelers fans are incredibly fortunate to have had Ben Roethlisberger leading this team for nearly two decades. However, despite how he might feel at the moment, Big Ben just doesn’t have it anymore and the sun had clearly set on his NFL career.