Ben Roethlisberger may choose to retire after the 2021 season, but at least publicly, it's not a decision he is currently pondering.
"I’m living right here, right now," he told reporters Wednesday. "We've got to make a run. We've got to play good football, great football. That starts right here with me. I can't get caught looking at the end because I need to focus on right here, this week."
Getting themselves back into contention will be no easy task. The Steelers sit at 6-6-1, and in normal years, a four-game winning streak to end the season would likely be enough to earn them a playoff berth.
But the Steelers are 11th in the AFC and battling for a wild-card berth. The No. 5 seed would go to the Los Angeles Chargers (8-5) if the season ended today, while the Indianapolis Colts (7-6) and Buffalo Bills (7-6) are in the Nos. 6 and 7 slots.
And below them but above the Steelers in the standings sit the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, all 7-6.
Oh, and if the Steelers drop even one more game, they would be in danger of seeing the Las Vegas Raiders (6-7) or Miami Dolphins (6-7) leapfrog them.
So their margin for error is basically nonexistent at this point.
As for Roethlisberger's future, he clearly remains the team's best bet at quarterback, at least among players on the roster.
Mason Rudolph has never seized upon his many chances to play and looks like a serviceable backup at best. The jury is still out on Dwayne Haskins, but replacing a likely Hall of Famer with a player whose NFL career has been marked by more controversy than on-field success would be a tough sell in a city with high expectations for its team.
Roethlisberger, 39, has thrown for 3,066 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions, completing 65.3 percent of his passes. His 6.7 yards per attempt ranks just 25th among eligible quarterbacks. His 43.4 QBR ranks 24th, while his 92.1 passer rating is 18th.
The best days are behind Big Ben. If he wants to continue playing beyond 2021, however, it's fair to argue that the Steelers—at least presently—don't have a better alternative.