There's an argument to be made that the Pittsburgh Steelers were better off parting ways with longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2021, mostly to kick off an inevitable reset now that several key veterans are expected to head elsewhere. But that's not Art Rooney II's argument. Days after confirming the 38-year-old Roethlisberger is set to return for an 18th season in Pittsburgh, the team president tells the Steelers' official website that Ben wants to "leave on a high note" and has plenty of arm left to do so.
"We think Ben played at a high level last year," Rooney said. "We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note."
"We're still confident he has the ability to do that," Rooney continued. "His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he's certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we're hard at work trying to make that happen."
Not exactly surprising remarks from team brass considering the Steelers have publicly committed to bringing Roethlisberger back, but they're notable nonetheless. The veteran QB, after all, opened 2020 hot -- even drawing some MVP buzz with 22 touchdown passes through the first nine games while Pittsburgh started undefeated -- but stumbled mightily down the stretch. Roethlisberger threw just 11 touchdowns compared to six interceptions, with an 83.4 passer rating, as the Steelers lost three of his last four regular-season starts, then threw a season-high four picks in the club's wild card loss to the Cleveland Browns.