"I've talked to people who have spoken with him, and he has some doubt whether he's really gonna play football again," ESPN's Chris Mortensen said during Monday's SportsCenter.
Mortensen added that the Steelers could turn to veteran options like Philip Rivers, Eli Manning or Teddy Bridgewater if Roethlisberger doesn't return.
Roethlisberger, 37, suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
"This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people," he said in a statement at the time. "I can only trust God's plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season."
In his absence, the Steelers have been forced to roll with Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges, to mixed results:
- Rudolph: 1,765 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 15 sacks, 62.2 completion percentage
- Hodges: 968 passing yards, five touchdowns, eight interceptions, 13 sacks, 67.4 completion percentage
Neither Rudolph nor Hodges have erased any doubts about their long-term viability as a future starter once Roethlisberger calls it quits. But it sounds as though Big Ben isn't planning on doing so just yet, which gives Pittsburgh more time to groom his successor.
Roethlisberger is also under contract through the 2021 season, which is another factor to consider. It's unclear whether Big Ben will finish out that contract, but he made it clear Wednesday that he intends to return for at least one more year.