Ben Roethlisberger is entering the home stretch of his 19th NFL season. According to an ESPN report, it will be the final one of his NFL career.
Citing anonymous sources, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Roethlisberger “privately has told former teammates and some within the organization” this will be his final season with the Steelers.
A Steelers spokesman said the organization is not commenting on the report.
Roethlisberger is playing out the final year of a contract that he reworked in the offseason to reduce his salary-cap number, which team president Art Rooney II said was necessary for the 39-year-old quarterback to continue playing for the organization.
In June, Roethlisberger said he would never consider playing for another franchise.
“I’m black and gold through and through,” he said. “That’s why I told the Rooneys and Coach (Mike) Tomlin I want to be there. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is home to me. I will always bleed black and gold. Almost half of my life has been here playing football for the Steelers.”
The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback has led the Steelers to a 5-5-1 record this season. He has started every game but one — a 16-16 tie with Detroit that Roethlisberger missed because of a positive covid test.
Roethlisberger has shown signs of a decline in play this season. His 2,522 passing yard this season rank No. 17 in the league, and his 14 touchdown passes are tied for 18th. He is 21st in passer rating.
The Steelers have six games remaining, starting with a pivotal AFC North meeting Sunday against the the first-place Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Steelers likely need a win against the Ravens to keep their playoff hopes alive.
With Roethlisberger’s contract expiring after the season and given the team’s commitment to youth on offense, it’s not a surprise he is considering retirement. Roethlisberger, by far, is the oldest player on the Steelers roster, and his closest friend on the team, center Maurkice Pouncey, retired in January after a playoff loss to Cleveland.
Roethlisberger is the franchise leader in wins, touchdown passes and passing yards. He ranks sixth on the NFL’s all-time list in passing yards, fifth in completions, eighth in touchdown passes and third in fourth-quarter comebacks.
The Steelers have backup Mason Rudolph under contract for the 2022 season. No. 3 quarterback Dwayne Haskins will become a restricted free agent in 2022.