Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger surprisingly wouldn't commit to playing another season in the NFL in an interview Tuesday, Jan. 24, following the team's 36-17 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22.
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Rooney Comments on Roethlisberger's Future
Tuesday, Jan. 31
Steelers owner Art Rooney said he thinks Roethlisberger will return in 2017 following a conversation with the star quarterback, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Big Ben to 'Evaluate' Future During Offseason
Tuesday, Jan. 24
CBS Pittsburgh passed along comments the 34-year-old, two-time Super Bowl champion made during an appearance on The Cook and Poni Show:
I'm going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options. To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there's going to be a next season. ...
I'm going to take some time and evaluate with my family and just do a lot of praying about it and make sure it's the right thing for me and my family.
Roethlisberger told The Cook and Poni Show that he wasn't suggesting he's leaning toward retirement, just that he wasn't ruling it out.
"I'm not by any means saying I'm not coming back or anything like that," he said. "I'm just saying at this point in my career, I think it's prudent...to evaluate."
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN cited sources who said they would be "surprised if [Roethlisberger] retires but respect his process on the matter."
Tomlin Responds to Roethlisberger's Comments
Tuesday, Jan. 24
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters he takes Roethlisberger's comments seriously but noted he's not alarmed by them. Tomlin also said the decision-making process doesn't surprise him but added that the franchise will "react and plan accordingly."
Roethlisberger Is Leader of High-Powered Offense
Roethlisberger is under contract through the 2019 season and carries an $18.2 million cap hit for the 2017 campaign, per Spotrac. While the Steelers would surely want him back under center, he remained cryptic when pressed about returning for at least one more year, according to CBS Pittsburgh.
Big Ben is coming off another strong season. He racked up 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns—the third-highest total of his career—through the air en route to a 95.4 passer rating for the league's seventh-ranked offense.
In the bigger picture, his presence alongside running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown has given the Steelers perhaps the NFL's most explosive triumvirate in recent years.
All told, things are starting to get interesting in Pittsburgh. Along with Roethlisberger's decision to leave his future up in the air as the Steelers go their separate ways for the offseason, the situation surrounding Brown isn't clear-cut, either.
The wideout has been in the spotlight since going on Facebook Live during Coach Tomlin's postgame speech after the team's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round. Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today provided some of the head coach's pointed comments after that incident.
"I think that's why oftentimes you see great players move around from team to team," Tomlin said. "I definitely don't want that to be his story. I'm sure he doesn't want that to be his story, so he has to address these things that have put him and us, in time to time, in settings as such where it needs to be addressed."
While it would still be unexpected to see Roethlisberger retire or the Steelers trade Brown, an unsettling feeling has emerged around the team over the past few weeks. If nothing else, the drama has skyrocketed as the offseason gets underway.