Roethlisberger said he plans on playing for 3-to-5 more seasons if both he and his offensive line stay healthy, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Roethlisberger has spent the latter portion of his career playing with a strong offensive line, not to mention the best running back and wideout duo in recent NFL history. The complementary weapons haven't been so consistent, though the Steelers seem to have solved that problem when they drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster at No. 62 overall in 2017. The team did trade Martavis Bryant to Oakland last week, but then replaced him with another wideout late in the second round of the draft (Oklahoma State's James Washington). Pittsburgh then took Washington's college quarterback, Mason Rudolph, in the middle of Round 3, but Roethlisberger said it probably will be awhile before the rookie gets his shot to start. With a playoff-caliber roster that includes all five starters returning on the offensive line, it's easy to see why the 36-year-old is optimistic about extending his career into his late 30s of early 40s. Roethlisberger has played all 16 games just three times in 14 pro seasons, despite playing at least 12 games each year.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II said Wednesday that Roethlisberger wants to keep playing in the NFL beyond the 2019 season, the final year of his current contract, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
After a brief flirtation with retirement last offseason, Roethlisberger was clear about his intentions following the Steelers' elimination from the postseason in the team's divisional-round loss to the Jaguars. The 35-year-old confirmed shortly after that game that he would return for the 2018 season, but Rooney's comments take that a step further and imply that the veteran quarterback believes he has multiple years left in him. While it that may be wishful thinking on the part of Rooney, Roethlisberger showed he had plenty left in the tank in 2017. In addition to throwing for 4,251 yards while posting a 28:14 TD:INT ratio across 15 regular-season contests, Roethlisberger was masterful against a tough Jacksonville pass defense in the playoffs, amassing 469 yards and five touchdowns in that contest and displaying impeccable downfield accuracy on multiple throws.
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.
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