Ben Roethlisberger is determined to finish his career like Eli Manning, not like Philip Rivers.
The last quarterback active from the historic 2004 NFL Draft class indicated Tuesday that he will not play for any other team besides the Steelers as his career winds down. Manning retired after finishing his 16th season with the Giants in 2019, while Rivers retired after 16 seasons with the Chargers and one out-of-place season with the Colts. Roethlisberger is entering his 18th season with the Steelers.
“I’m black and gold through and through,” he said, according to NFL Network. “I want to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
So, is this the final season for the 39-year-old two-time Super Bowl champion?
“I’m going to approach it like I do every season, like it’s my last,” Roethlisberger said. “Every single play in the game of football might be your last.”
In order to make sure he could return this season, Roethlisberger took a $5 million pay cut that saved $15 million against the salary cap for the Steelers. He is scheduled to make $14 million in 2021, when his cap hit previously was $41 million, including $19 million in bonuses.
Roethlisberger said of the pay cut, “that was my idea” and it was “necessary” to help the team keep other players and stay competitive. Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster returned in free agency but two longtime offensive line stalwarts — center Maurkice Pouncey (retired) and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (signed with Ravens) -– are gone.
“If they wanted me back,” Roethlisberger said, “I felt I could give them everything I got.”
Roethlisberger returned from missing most of the 2019 season by leading the Steelers to an 11-0 start last season. But the Steelers went one-and-done in the playoffs, losing 48-37 to the Browns in a game where Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards to try to lead a comeback. It was a lot to ask of a quarterback whose arm seemed to tire down the stretch.
“I took a lot of time off from throwing this offseason,” he said. “I really hope and pray it will pay dividends.”