Last Sunday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported this regarding Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "Steelers sources tell me to expect Roethlisberger to ask [the organization] in the offseason to explore possible trade options."
And that was that -- except is wasn't.
On Thursday -- four days later -- Rapoport reported the exact same thing: After the season, expect Roethlisberger to ask the team to explore possible trade options. The implication: Disregard what Ben, his agent or the team have said, the Steelers' quarterback wants out of Pittsburgh.
On Friday, Roethlisberger reiterated that he is happy right where he is.
“First and foremost, I don't want to go anywhere,” he told WDVE. “I want to be in Pittsburgh. I hope that's very clear to everybody that I want to stay, my family wants to stay. We do not want to ask for a trade, we don't want to go anywhere. I want to finish my career here. I've always said that, and I still feel firmly that way.”
Roethlisberger also questioned Rapoport's sources.
“When someone is a source and they're unnamed, they have an agenda,” he said. “And their agenda is not winning football games and not helping this team. Whoever that agenda is coming from, they're not helping us, they're hurting us.”
Meanwhile, Rapoport's colleague, Michael Silver, reported this from his unnamed Steelers sources: “When [Roethlisberger] is away from the facility, he is no Peyton Manning. That is the biggest obstacle to him staying." Silver added that the Steelers believe Roethlisberger “is more engaged this year, doing a better job of preparation when he is at the facility.”
That prompted longtime Steelers beat reporter Dale Lolley to tweet this:
I have never seen Silver in the Steelers locker room. Only been doing this 21 years— Dale Lolley (@dlolleyor) November 15, 2013
“First of all, how does anybody know what I'm doing at home,” Roethlisberger said, “when I'm watching film or I'm looking through my playbook at home, unless someone someone's got cameras set up in my house and they're spying on me? But then they'd see the truth that I am doing that stuff.”
Roethlisberger currently has two years left on his current deal (with salary-cap hits of $17.9 million in 2014 and $17.4 million in 2015), although the organization almost certainly will begin contract extension talks this offseason. One report has Big Ben asking for more than $20 milliion a season in his next deal, which is the going rate for top-tier franchise quarterbacks. Whether the Steelers still categorize the 31-year-old Roethlisberger as such is another matter.
Big Ben was asked about his contract Friday.
“I'm still ignorant to how all these cap things works and contracts,” he said. “Honestly, if they come to me and say hey we want to restructure a deal or we want to do [a deal], whatever, I want to help the team out. But all I can focus on right now is this season and this game. Because that's all that matters to me. I don't look for the future or the long term. What's gonna happen next year? When's my contract up? These kind of things. For me, it's about how can I win this game, this week?”
We're not sure who will blink first in this game of Groundhog Day chicken, but it appears that Rapoport will continue to report that Big Ben will inquire about trade options and that Roethlisberger will continue to flatly deny them.