Last week Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II met with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and indicated that the team wants him to return for the 2021 season, ending speculation that a messy breakup was in the offing.
In the wake of that meeting, Rooney said he believed Roethlisberger played “at a high level” last year, noting that the Steelers set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to start a season (11) and also won the AFC North.
Rooney also expressed confidence that Roethlisberger—who turns 39 on Tuesday—still has the physical tools to be a winning quarterback.
“His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done,” said Rooney via Bob Labriola of Steelers.com, a statement that may be true, but perhaps ignores the fact that Big Ben has chronic knee problems, as well as other age-related issues.
Ben Roethlisberger: ‘My Arm Feels Really Good, It’s More About the Rest of the Body’
Recall that Roethlisberger basically admitted as much last December when he said “my arm feels really good, it’s more about the rest of the body…. The cumulation of the toll of the hits, of pounding, the grinding, of being 38 years old, all of those things kind of add up,” he admitted.
Indeed Roethlisberger had knee problems throughout the second half of the 2020 season. For example, he reportedly sustained injuries to both knees on November 8th at Dallas. He also missed all of the team’s practices leading up to the Washington game on December 7th and then suffered a hyperextended knee during that contest. After a dismal performance a week later he mused about the possibility of retiring. “Right now, I’m not playing good enough football to win,” he said. “If I don’t play good enough football, then I need to hang it up.”
Never mind that Roethlisberger—and the team—didn’t bottom out until the January playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the first half of which was eerily reminiscent of Dan Marino’s last NFL game.
Art Rooney: ‘Ben Wants to … Leave on a High Note’
When he addressed the media last week, Rooney let it slip that the ugly playoff loss to the Browns may be part of the reason that Roethlisberger wants to return for an 18th season.
“That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note,” said Rooney.
But there’s no guarantee that Roethlisberger will be able to play well enough to keep his job, much less end his career on a high note.
If it gets to that point, the Steelers may decide they want to learn more about what they have in backup quarterback Mason Rudolph, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season. Or take a look at former Washington first-rounder Dwayne Haskins, who was signed to a one-year deal in January.
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