PITTSBURGH, PA (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger has made his exit.
On Thursday, the long-serving Steelers quarterback announced his retirement. He said it was time to “clean out my locker, hang my cleats,” after 18 seasons, two Super Bowls and numerous team records, as well as a spot in The Hall of Fame.
Roethlisberger (39), said that he didn’t know how he could put into words the importance of football to him and what a blessing it was. “But I can confidently say that I gave my best to the game. I am overwhelmed by gratitude for all it has done for me.”
This much-anticipated decision was made less than two weeks following Pittsburgh’s loss to Kansas City in round one of the postseason. It marked the 12th consecutive playoff appearance for the Steelers in Roethlisberger’s career.
He indicated before the final game at Heinz Field, that it was time to leave and spend more time in his home with Ashley and their three children. After a win on Monday night over the Browns, he made it a point of enjoying the moment before disappearing down the tunnel surrounded his family.
Roethlisberger described the “exhilarating” journey of a young boy from Ohio to becoming a future Hall of Famer as “exciting.”
They were also wildly successful.
Roethlisberger was a Steeler’s coach and they never lost a season. They won Super Bowls 40 (the Steelers were victorious) and 46 (the Steelers captured the 46th Super Bowl). The Steelers scored a touchdown pass that went over the hands of three Arizona defenders, to Santonio Holmes at the corner of the endzone.
He said, “Putting on that jersey every Sunday with my brothers is one of my greatest joys in my life.”
Roethlisberger was on a more personal journey than his professional. Roethlisberger was not wearing a helmet when he broke his jawbone and nose in a motorcycle accident in 2006. This happened just a few months after becoming the youngest ever Super Bowl quarterback.
He was accused twice of sexual assault: once in 2009, and again in 2010. He was cleared of a civil case that he had filed in connection to an incident at Lake Tahoe 2009. Georgian woman claimed he assaulted her in a bar in March 2010. However, prosecutors didn’t file formal charges.
He was suspended by the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy. He was reinstated to lead the Steelers to victory in the Super Bowl. Green Bay lost.
His evolution as both a player, and as a person was evident in the second half of his career. He was best known for his “Ben being Ben”, approach to the game in his 20s. However, he became one of the league’s top passers in his 30s. He was twice the league’s leading passer in yards and he retired in the top 10 all-time in yards passing, touchdown passes and game-winning drives.
He was largely hidden from the public eye when he married and began a family off the field.
The only thing that did not change was winning. Winning.
Roethlisberger’s record as a starting quarterback was 165-81-1, which is the fifth-best in franchise history. With his No. 8, the Steelers won eight consecutive AFC North championships. 7 in the middle and “Big Ben” was able to thrive in tight situations. His 53 game-winning drives rank second in NFL history, behind Peyton Manning’s 54.
Roethlisberger was long admired for his toughness, and willingness to play in great pain. Roethlisberger sustained only one major injury. After tearing ligaments in the elbow of his right hand in Week 2 against Seattle, Roethlisberger missed nearly the entire 2019 season.
In 2020, he returned to the Steelers and led them to a 11-0 start and a division championship. He threw for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns while only 10 interceptions were recorded. However, he was unable to complete the season due to four interceptions in a Cleveland playoff loss.
Roethlisberger made one final run with an almost entirely rebuilt offensive line, while his teammates and close friends Vance McDonald and Maurkice Poouncey retired. Roethlisberger was very old for some time as the Steelers struggled for long periods.
There were still glimpses of Ben of old, but not Old Ben. Perhaps most notable was a 20-19 win against Baltimore in December, in which he threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to beat the Ravens. Despite their weaknesses, the Steelers were able to salvage a playoff spot despite a 9-7-1 season.
After the game, the player who had considered retiring several times in recent seasons seemed to realize that this would be his last season in black-and-gold. In December, he spoke out about how important it was to pass on “The Steeler Way” to his team, nearly all of whom were at least 10 years younger than him, and made it a point that he passed the baton to Cam Heyward, a defensive tackle, after losing to the Chiefs.
His retirement ends a career that began with Dan Rooney insisting the Steelers draft him in 2004. Pittsburgh had hoped Roethlisberger would wait behind Tommy Maddox. Maddox was injured in Week 2, and Roethlisberger, a raw 22-year-old, took over.
That game ended in defeat for the Steelers. Roethlisberger was at the controls for the remainder of the regular season. After leading the Steelers to a record of 15-1, he was named Offensive Rookie-of-the Year.
The season ended in defeat to New England at the AFC championship. The Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl a year later by winning three consecutive road wins in the playoffs. This was in addition to an upset of Indianapolis by the Steelers in the divisional round. Roethlisberger’s stingy tackle of Nick Harper, Colts defensive back, after a late Jerome Bettis fumble.
Roethlisberger, like Bettis, hoped that the last year of his career would be a field filled with confetti and the Vince Lombardi Trophy at his side. Although it didn’t happen Roethlisberger said he was happy with his decision to leave.
“I am truly grateful that I retired from football.”