Ben Roethlisberger’s topsy, turvy, tumultuous 2021 season seems to be headed for only one destination: retirement.
If Roethlisberger announced this would be his last season, it wouldn’t surprise anyone, not after the more-than-occasional moments in which Roethlisberger looked, well, old. It hasn’t been all bad, of course: Roethlisberger has posted a passer rating over 100 in five games this season. Two of those games have resulted in losses, though, and the Steelers currently sit at the bottom of a tightly packed AFC North.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have a clear plan for life after Roethlisberger. He doesn’t seem to be thinking about the future at this moment, either.
“I’m living right here, right now,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday, via ESPN. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got to play good football. We’ve got to play great football. That starts right here with me. I can’t get caught looking at the end because I need to focus on right here, this week.”
Pittsburgh is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota on Thursday Night Football, one in which the Steelers fell behind 29-0 before mounting a furious comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. After struggling to do much of anything well, Roethlisberger caught fire in the final quarter and a half, throwing three touchdown passes on his way to a 28-of-40, 308-yard outing.
It was vintage Roethlisberger, airing it out to frantically attempt to get the Steelers back into the game. They’ll have to operate with the same sense of urgency for the remainder of the season if they hope to turn their current 6-6-1 record into a playoff berth.
Roethlisberger is ready to give it his all in the last month of what could end up being his final season. He’s expecting his younger teammates to follow suit.
“You look at guys sometimes and look in their eyes and see what they have,” Roethlisberger said. “The crazy thing about this game and this sport is you can look at guys and you can feel that guys have all the heart in the world and the passion and they want it and they’re going to give you everything they have.
“Sometimes the other team is better or they make a play and you don’t. Just because you’re losing a football game or the season isn’t going the way you want it to, doesn’t mean these guys don’t have heart and don’t love it and aren’t passionate for it. It doesn’t mean that. I just want to see that guys are never going to quit.”
The road to an unlikely playoff berth begins Sunday with a home date with the 9-4 Tennessee Titans, which might also include a bit of history. Roethlisberger is just 27 yards from moving past Philip Rivers for fifth all-time in career passing yards.
The only record Roethlisberger is focused on at this point is the one in the division standings.
“It means I’ve played a long time,” Roethlisberger said. “No, personal things, those are things you look back on and reflect on when you’re done. Anytime you get up there with a legend — I’ll call him that, my draft class — he’s still a good football player and a legend football player. It’s cool to play a long time.”
That long time could soon be coming to an end. If it truly is his last go-around, Roethlisberger is hoping it produces a happy ending.
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