The term legend is too frequently used in sports but when it comes to describing NFL star Ben Roethlisberger the use of such a word to describe his career seems more than acceptable.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, who just completed his 18th season with the franchise, appears to be set to call time on his career in the game, and that will leave head coach Mike Tomlin with a big hole to fill at Heinz Field.
The loss of such a key player will no doubt have a significant effect on the real-time odds comparison related to the Steelers next season; such is the quality of the 39-year-old who led Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl triumphs and 12 playoff runs during his time at the franchise.
Tomlin has the likes of Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins at this disposal when it comes to replacing Roethlisberger, but he may well look elsewhere if his recent comments on his back-ups are anything to go by;
“They’ll have to prove that [they can be the starter],”
“And not only in the team development process but through playing. They’ll be given an opportunity to establish themselves.”
It appears Tomlin is keen on a quarterback with more mobility than Roethlisberger has shown in recent years, the veteran managing just 16 rushing yards over the past two seasons.
Roethlisberger hasn’t come out and announced his retirement, but comments he made after the Steelers lost their wildcard playoffs to the Kansas City Chiefs, 42-21, would seem to suggest he will do so soon;
“It’s tough, but I’m proud to play with these guys,”
“God has blessed me with an ability to throw a football and has blessed me to play in the greatest city in Pittsburgh with the greatest fans and the greatest football team and players, and it has just truly been a blessing, and I’m so thankful to Him for the opportunity that He’s given me.” He added.
“I will say that I’m really proud of the way guys fought,” Roethlisberger said. “We had guys, whether it’s linemen or backs or receivers, tight ends, I mean, guys stepped up and literally fought to the end. Tonight, guys just never quit literally until the last second. Even when it’s out of grasp, guys don’t quit. … I’m just so proud to call these guys brothers and to play for ’em.”
All of which sounds pretty much like the words of a player ready to call time on his lengthy, successful NFL career.
It would be fair to say that the last couple of seasons haven’t been Roethlisberger’s best, but his numbers are still solid. He managed 3740 passing yards this season and 22 passing touchdowns, which would be considered decent stats but are actually his lowest from a completed season since 2012, indicating that time is no longer on his side.
Tomlin will have to hope he can either pick up a solid draft pick or count on his current choices, but either way, he’ll have a very tough time covering the spot left by Roethlisberger.