Ben Roethlisberger reportedly doesn't expect to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers next season.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Roethlisberger has privately told former teammates and some people in the Steelers organization that he believes 2021 will be his final season as the Steelers' quarterback.
Schefter did not elaborate on whether the 39-year-old Roethlisberger plans to retire or pursue a starting job with another team.
The Steelers selected Roethlisberger with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft out of Miami (Ohio), and that turned out to be among the best selections in team history.
Big Ben is a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer thanks to his six Pro Bowl nods, two Super Bowl wins and 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Also, Roethlisberger ranks sixth in NFL history with 62,870 passing yards and eighth with 410 career passing touchdowns.
Roethlisberger is in the midst of his 18th NFL season, and he has appeared in 243 regular-season games in all, but there were some questions this past offseason regarding whether he would be back in 2021.
Roethlisberger largely played well last season, completing 65.6 percent of his passes for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a Steelers team that started 11-0.
Pittsburgh lost four of its final five games in the regular season, however, and fell 48-37 to the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. Roethlisberger threw for 501 yards and four touchdowns in that postseason game, but he was also picked off four times.
Roethlisberger has been serviceable so far this season, completing 64.6 percent of his attempts for 2,522 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In the one game Roethlisberger missed this season after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Steelers could only muster a 16-16 tie against the winless Detroit Lions, underscoring his importance.
The Steelers are 5-5-1 on the season, leaving them a half-game out of a wild-card spot in the AFC. They are also 2.5 games behind the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North.
If Roethlisberger does retire or go elsewhere after the 2021 season, the quarterback options currently on Pittsburgh's roster include 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph and 2019 Washington Football Team first-round pick Dwayne Haskins.
Since neither Rudolph nor Haskins have shown the ability to be starting quarterbacks in the NFL, Pittsburgh may instead opt to explore the 2022 draft class.