The Steelers' 2017 season is officially underway, and Ben Roethlisberger reiterated on the second day of training camp what became one of the biggest storylines this spring: that the franchise quarterback is seriously considering retirement after the season, and that his wife supports the decision.
"Age," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette on Friday, adding, "It's just, it's 14 years; that's a long time. I think the average life expectancy in the NFL is three years, maybe 3.5 now.
"I've been blessed to do this a long time. I think it's just seeing my kids growing up, and in the offseason I love getting to spend time with them, and then I come here and football season just has to take up so much of your time. Even when you get home, I try my best to turn it off when I walk in the front door. I think I do a pretty good job of that, but it still consumes you in a way."
"Just all those things combined -- being healthy, being able to play catch with my kids," Roethlisberger continued. "I feel good mentally, I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players' brains who were studied had CTE. There's a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be OK if I hung it up, too. But I still love the guys, I still love the game, so it was right for me to come back and give it everything I have this year."
Roethlisberger, whose current contract runs through 2019, continues to play at a high level, and this Steelers offense could be the best of his career, one that includes three Super Bowl appearances and two Lombardi Trophies. Everyone one knows about Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, but there's also the offensive line, perhaps one of the league's most underrated units. It's a group that should Roethlisberger call it a career next offseason.
"I say all the time: The moment [Big Ben] walks away, I'm walking right behind him," center Maurkice Pouncey told Sports Illustrated in January. "You get so used to playing with that type, man, and I don't know if I'm ready to walk into a huddle with another quarterback. I don't think I'll ever be."
At it stands, Roethlisberger is focused on the next six months.
"I feel if I commit to anything past right now, I'm cheating now," he explained. "I'm looking forward to this season, and I'm going to give it everything I have and afterwards we'll sit down and do some [thinking] again."
There were some conversations this offseason that the Steelers might look for Roethlisberger's replacement in the first round of the draft, but a weak class coupled with Roethlisberger's return led the team to address other needs. But that could change next spring, when Big Ben may have already played his last game and the quarterback class is expected to be one of best groups in recent memory.