Following Sunday's playoff loss to the Jaguars, Roethlisberger indicated that he plans to play in 2018, ESPN's Katherine Terrell reports. "I don't know about contracts and whose coming back but I know the guys up front are, and that makes it good for me, so I look forward to next year with those guys," Roethlisberger noted Sunday. While the key members of the Steelers offensive line will be back -- which Roethlisberger clearly appreciates -- it remains to be seen what's in store for star running back Le'Veon Bell, who's looking for a big pay day this offseason and doesn't want to play under the team's franchise tag again. Roethlisberger was a healthy scratch in Week 17, but prior to that he made it through the season without missing a game due to injury, throwing for 4,251 yards and generating a 28:14 TD:INT ratio in the process. Roethlisberger is under contract through the 2019 season, but he has at times hinted at retirement. Unless he has a change of heart, however, the 35-year-old is now on track to return next season for his 15th NFL campaign.
Roethlisberger completed 37 of 58 passes for 469 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception in Sunday's 45-42 AFC divisional-round loss to Jacksonville. He also ran twice for 16 yards and fumbled once. Heading into this game, the Steelers had gone 8-0 when scoring 25+ points, and Roethlisberger showed no sign of his age (35), throwing a franchise-record five TD passes. However, several failed fourth-down attempts, a costly sack and fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and an absentee defense all conspired to knock Pittsburgh out of the postseason. Roethlisberger hit seven different receivers playing from behind the entire game and almost tossed a sixth score in the final minutes on a play that was ultimately ruled a lateral and rushing touchdown for Le'Veon Bell.
Roethlisberger was inactive (coach's decision) for Sunday's 28-24 win over the Browns, finishing the 2017 season completing 360 of 563 passes for 4,251 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions in 15 games. He also ran 28 times for 47 yards. Roethlisberger was sacked 21 times this season, the most since 2014, so it was not surprising that Pittsburgh opted to give their veteran quarterback the week off. Although under contact until 2020, Roethlisberger has hinted as recently as this past offseason that he might retire, but walking away from more than $21 million per year is not an easy decision. The Steelers and fantasy owners will have to take a wait-and-see approach in terms of Big Ben's future. Only Tom Brady threw for more yards (4,577) than Roethlisberger this season and, if he returns for the 2018 season, he is most certainly a top 10 fantasy quarterback. In the meantime, Roethlisberger will enjoy another week off as the Steelers have a first-round bye, before returning under center in their Week 19 AFC divisional round game.
The Steelers will rest Roethlisberger and a number of key starters Sunday against the Browns, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been mum regarding how long or if he'll deploy his stars in Week 17, but Rapoport's report was seemingly supported earlier this week by Pittsburgh offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert implying that Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell would be held out in preparation for the postseason. The Steelers could claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win and a Patriots loss Sunday, but given the unlikelihood of heavily favored New England dropping a game to the 5-10 Jets, it appears Pittsburgh's primary goal is avoiding injury in the regular-season finale. Roethlisberger could still dress as the backup quarterback over third stringer Josh Dobbs, but it's expected that Landry Jones will direct the offense for all four quarters in his fifth career NFL start.
Roethlisberger (non-injury) was held out of practice Friday but doesn't have a designation for Sunday's game versus the Browns. The Steelers haven't outright tipped their hand, but Roethlisberger is expected to join Le'Veon Bell on the sideline as a healthy scratch this weekend, despite the passing title and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs on the line. Roethlisberger's DNP/limited/DNP practice regimen this week also supports the suspicion that the coaching staff is preparing Landry Jones for a spot start in the season finale. Expect the Steelers to make a decision on Roethlisberger's availability by the release of inactives 90 minutes before Sunday's 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff.
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