Former Steelers LB Ryan Shazier: Roethlisberger Should Consider Retiring Next Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 14, 2019: Linebacker Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns on November 14, 2019 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 21-7. (Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Ryan Shazier thinks the writing is on the wall for former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Ben Roethlisberger.

Shazier said Wednesday on Tiki and Tierney the legendary quarterback should consider hanging up his cleats in 2022:

"Sometimes the game will tell you when it's time. And I love Ben, but I think next year may be time for him to step away from the game. Ben has been known for being one of those types of quarterbacks who is really tough to bring down, extend the plays, allow his team to make big plays because of how much of an athlete he was. He knew how to change the game. And I feel he's losing a lot of that."

The two-time Pro Bowler posited that Roethlisberger's retirement might allow the Steelers to pursue a trade for Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers or Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson.

While Roethlisberger is one of the greatest QBs in franchise history, he and the Steelers have a marriage of convenience to some extent.

At this point, it's difficult to envision the 39-year-old starting for another team, and Pittsburgh's salary cap situation was such that keeping him under center was Pittsburgh's only realistic option.

CBSSports.com's Joel Corry explained in January how losing Roethlisberger via trade, release or retirement would've meant the Steelers carrying $22.25 million in dead money. And what was slated to be a $41.25 million salary cap hit made it almost impossible to sign another quarterback who could serve as competition.

The two sides restructured his contract in order to bring his cap hit down to $25.9 million. The downside for Pittsburgh is that Big Ben's retirement would still result in having to absorb $10.3 million in dead money in 2022 as a result of the restructure.

At this point, that's a bargain the Steelers might be willing to make because Shazier probably speaks for a lot of people in the Steel City.

Through 10 games, Roethlisberger has thrown for 2,522 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions Per Pro Football Reference, his 43.1 QBR is on pace to be a career low over a full season since tracking for the stat began in 2006.

As is often the case with aging passers, the six-time Pro Bowler's arm strength is beginning to wane. His 7.0 average intended air yards are fifth-lowest in the league, per NFL's Next Gen Stats. That number was 9.2 when he last made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

There was some hope that hiring Matt Canada as quarterbacks coach in 2020 and promoting him to replace Randy Fichtner might help the team wring something more out of Roethlisberger.

Instead, the offensive coordinator and his quarterback haven't exactly seen eye to eye.

Thanks in part to Roethlisberger, the Steelers haven't experienced any fallow periods since his arrival in 2004; a .500 is the worst it has gotten. But it has become increasingly clear some sort of transition is inevitable.

Perhaps Pittsburgh can land a marquee quarterback and keep chugging toward contention in 2022. Absent that, the front office will have to rip off the bandage and expect a lean year or two while the organization looks for Roethlisberger's successor.