Ben Roethlisberger is 39 years old and playing on a contract that is scheduled to void following the 2021 campaign, but Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II left the door open to the quarterback returning in 2022.
"It's not written in stone that this is his last year," Rooney said, per Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
"We're aware this could be Ben's last year," he continued. "We hope it's a great one. That's as far as we can go with it right now. Obviously, if this is his last year, then next year we'll be making decisions on a QB."
While Roethlisberger played just two games in 2019 because of an elbow injury, he bounced back healthwise in 2020 and appeared in 15 games.
He completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while leading the Steelers to a 12-4 record and AFC North title. However, they lost to the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Wild Card Round.
Big Ben isn't far removed from leading the league with 5,129 passing yards in 2018 and has a resume that includes two Super Bowl titles, an Offensive Rookie of the Year award and six Pro Bowl selections.
He will go down as a Steelers legend regardless of how he performs on the field in 2021, but the team will eventually have to start thinking about the future.
Mason Rudolph, 26, and Dwayne Haskins, 24, are young quarterbacks with some starting experience, but neither has shown enough on the field to simply assume they will be handed the control of the offense if Roethlisberger is no longer on the team beyond the 2021 season.
That is what makes Rooney's comments that the team will be "making decisions on a quarterback" if Roethlisberger isn't in Pittsburgh next year so intriguing, as one of the most consistent franchises in the league in recent years could be looking to make a major change either through the draft, a trade or free agency.
For now, though, the Steelers are Roethlisberger's team as they look to defend their AFC North crown this season.