Ben Roethlisberger was in tears during the final moments of the Steelers' 48-37 wild-card playoff loss to the Browns. Considering that he has lost a Super Bowl and several other big postseason games, Roethlisberger's tears, along with him and Maurkice Pouncey lingering on the field well after his teammates had headed to the locker room led to postgame questions about his future with the Steelers.
Roethlisberger, who threw four touchdowns and four interceptions in Sunday night's loss, did not definitively say whether or not he will play again next season. He did say that he wants to be back in Pittsburgh if he plays an 18th NFL season.
"It's going to start between me and God," said Roethlisberger, whose playoff record dipped to 13-9 following Sunday's loss. "Lot of praying. And a lot of talking with my family. I still have a year left on my contract. I hope the Steelers want me back if that's the way we go."
When asked about the futures of Roethlisberger and Pouncey (who is also signed through the 2021 season), Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said that the team would begin the process of evaluating the roster sometime soon. Tomlin said that he does believe that Roethlisberger is capable of playing at a high level when asked during his postgame press conference.
Roethlisberger enjoyed a mostly successful 2020 season. After a major elbow surgery wiped out most of his 2019 season, Roethlisberger's name was in the middle of the NFL's MVP conversation after helping the Steelers win their first 11 games. Things began to fizzle for Big Ben and the Steelers following their hot start. Pittsburgh's receivers started dropping passes. Their running game fell to 32nd in the league. Questions began to surface regarding Roethlisberger's health. The Steelers' defense, the NFL's best during the first half of the season, lost their second starter -- linebacker Bud Dupree -- to a season-ending knee injury in Week 12. They then lost Joe Haden (who was on the COVID-19 list) prior to Sunday night's loss to Haden's former team.
Big Ben ended the 2020 regular season with 33 touchdowns (the second-highest total of his career) and 10 interceptions (his lowest total since 2014). In Sunday night's loss, he completed a playoff-record 47 passes for 501 yards, the second-highest mark in postseason history. And while it's clear that he can still put up big numbers, he and his team's lackluster finish will undoubtedly lead to some changes within the Steelers' organization. The Steelers have several high-profile free agents that include Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner.
"It's totally possible," defensive captain Cam Heyward said when asked about wholesale changes this offseason, via Joe Rutter of the Tribune-Review. "I could be gone next year. I don't know what to expect. We are in uncharted territory, to say the least. Changes have to be made."
Want inside access into this unprecedented NFL season? Download and subscribe to All Things Covered with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden for a player's perspective including thoughts on JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers.