Ben Roethlisberger Says He Plans to Play Next Year After Playoff Loss to Jaguars

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 14, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Sunday's 45-42 AFC Divisional Round defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars apparently won't be the final game of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's NFL career.

"I plan on coming back next year," Roethlisberger said after the game, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook.

Roethlisberger addressed his possible retirement somewhat definitively with NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.

"I don't know who's coming back, but I know the guys up front are and that makes it good for me," he said. "So I look forward to next year with these guys."

Back in July, Roethlisberger, who turns 36 in March, was open about how long-term health was becoming a bigger factor regarding his future in the NFL, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette:

"Just all those things combined—being healthy, being able to play catch with my kids. I feel good mentally, I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players' brains who were studied had CTE. There's a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be OK if I hung it up, too. But I still love the guys, I still love the game, so it was right for me to come back and give it everything I have this year."

Although the Steelers won 13 regular-season games and were the No. 2 seed in the AFC, their title window may be closing, and a lot of that comes down to Roethlisberger. Having him back for the 2018 season would be huge for Pittsburgh's Super Bowl aspirations.

But there's also the matter of Le'Veon Bell's impending free agency. Bell told ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler on Friday that he'd consider sitting out 2018 or retiring outright if the Steelers use the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.

Bell didn't necessarily retract those comments when addressing the story on Twitter:

The Steelers will also likely need to improve their defense with no timetable for Ryan Shazier's return from a spinal injury. The problem there is that Pittsburgh has roughly $4.5 million in salary cap space in 2018, according to Spotrac.

Even assuming the Steelers create more financial flexibility with roster cuts, a new deal for Bell will eat into the team's salary cap considerably, leaving potentially little to address the defense.

By going on the record to confirm he intends to play next season, Roethlisberger eliminated one possible headache for the Steelers, but the team is still facing a busy offseason nonetheless.

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