Ben Roethlisberger said it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who decided it was time to move on.
While the future first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer is at peace in his retirement, enjoying all that comes from dad life these days, he did mention something rather intriguing in his interview with Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette.
Roethlisberger said he did not feel the love from Steelers management a season ago, citing former Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert as the one who really wanted to move on from him at the quarterback position.
“It was mostly Kevin [Colbert],” said Roethlisberger to Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette. “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. …”
While he believes he went out on his own terms, Roethlisberger does feel like he can still play.
“I thought I went out on my terms. I never wanted to stay too long,” continued Roethlisberger. “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.”
Pittsburgh selected former Pitt star quarterback Kenny Pickett No. 20 overall in what was coincidentally Colbert’s final NFL Draft in charge of the Steelers’ war room before retiring himself.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger said Kevin Colbert wanted him to retire
There is a lot to unpack here While Roethlisberger has been supportive in welcoming Pickett and recent free-agent acquisition quarterback Mitch Trubisky to the Steelers family, he never showed any inkling towards being a mentor during his playing career, as illustrated by how things shook out with poor Mason Rudolph. If the Steelers were moving off Big Ben, they needed a clean break.
At this stage of his career, Trubisky is the perfect bridge quarterback for what the Steelers need. He is an athletic, dual-threat playmaker who can help defensive-minded teams win games. All the while, Pickett will do his best to try to overtake him on the depth chart at some point during the season. However, Pickett was drafted high based almost entirely on his ability to play games early.
As far as if Roethlisberger can still sling it, let’s let last year’s results be the judge. Pittsburgh was a playoff team, but it was mostly due to the play of the Steelers’ defense, rather than how well, or poorly, Big Ben played quarterback. While he could have played one more year with the Steelers, his drop-off was precipitous and Pittsburgh would not be a playoff team in a deep AFC in 2022.
Furthermore, it is interesting how Roethlisberger placed the blame on those in the Steelers organization. He put most of it on Colbert for wanting him out. That is only fitting, as he too has sailed off into retirement. Roethlisberger mentioned how it could have gone either way with head coach Mike Tomlin. He was probably overstating it positively in an attempt to save some face here.
And as far as owner Art Rooney is concerned, of course, he would want Big Ben to stay. He is arguably the greatest quarterback in franchise history. Unfortunately, Tomlin is in the business of winning games and Colbert was in the business of building championship-caliber rosters. Roethlisberger used to be good, but he would be detrimental to the Steelers if he was still playing.
Even if Big Ben still thinks he can play, the Steelers are full-steam ahead with Pickett under center.