The Ben Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh is close to ending. The NFL world can now turn its attention to whether Big Ben’s career is winding down, as well.
There is uncertainty about the latter part. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Roethlisberger has told members of the organization and former teammates that he expects 2021 to be his last season as the team’s quarterback. That perception would seem obvious: Roethlisberger is in the final year of his contract, he’s 39 and his play has been below-average.
And while sources told Schefeter that that the Steelers are assuming Roethlisberger will call it a career after the season, and while Roethlisberger has indicated in the past that he doesn’t want to play for any other team, one source left a sliver of wiggle room by saying it was “highly unlikely” the veteran would play elsewhere in 2022.
Roethlisberger can end the drama at any time by saying he’s retiring effective at the end of the season. Until he does that, there will be speculation about whether any other team would view him as an NFL-caliber QB. It’s difficult to make a case.
On the plus side, Big Ben has been durable this year despite his age and recent injury history. He has started 10 of the Steelers’ 11 games, with his only absence coming because of COVID-19. On the minus side, he is 27th in yards per attempt, 24th in touchdown rate, 22nd in completion percentage and 22nd in passer rating among the 34 NFL quarterbacks with 160 or more pass attempts.
His 1.6 interception rate is sixth-lowest shows he’s at least taking care of the ball, but the rest of the numbers indicate that Pittsburgh is 5-5 in his starts in spite of him.
Backup Mason Rudolph would be the first in line to inherit the job once Roethlisberger departs. Rudolph led the Steelers to a 16-16 tie against the Lions in Week 10 when Roethlisberger had to sit out. Rudolph is signed through 2022 and will count $4 million toward the Steelers’ salary cap, per Spotrac. Roethlisberger’s restructured contract leaves Pittsburgh with $10.3 million in dead money next year.
Dwayne Haskins is the No. 3 quarterback at the moment. He has not taken a snap this season and Steelers coaches reportedly are not happy with his work ethic.