Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger strongly hinted that Monday’s home game against the Cleveland Browns will be his last at Heinz Field.
Because the team’s regular-season finale Week 18 is on the road in Baltimore and because the Steelers would almost certainly only qualify for a wild card spot if they clinched a spot in the postseason, Roethlisberger is almost certainly correct in anticipating that the Steelers will not have another home game this season.
“I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees, that’s just not what I’ve ever done or who I am,” Roethlisberger said Monday morning during a press conference. “But looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs are pointing to this could be it. Regular season, that is. I know we still have a chance to potentially get a playoff game there if things fall our way and we take care of business and things have to happen. But in the grand scheme of things, in terms of regular season, signs are pointing that way, this could be it.”
Roethlisberger, 39, declined to go into specifics on whether he was thinking about possible retirement, or if he thought he might extend his career with another team, but multiple reports have indicated he is leaning toward retirement. Though he didn’t say it with absolute certainty, this is the closest Roethlisberger has come to publicly confirming the reports.
A six-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger has played all 18 seasons of his career in Pittsburgh. The Steelers (7-7-1) are currently in third place in the AFC North and are the 11th seed in the conference with two weeks left to play. Since both remaining games come against division opponents, it’s imperative for Pittsburgh to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs.
“If it is indeed my last regular season game there, it’s going to be one of the most important games of my career,” Roethlisberger said. “I have been so blessed to play in front of the best fans in all of sports in the best venue, what better way to have a potential last regular season game than Monday Night Football against a divisional opponent, it’s just special.”
Roethlisberger stressed that his primary focus was winning and making the playoffs.
Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense have struggled this season. He has completed 65.2% of his passes for 3,373 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The three lowest yards per pass attempt figures of his career (5.7, 6.3, 6.5) have all come in the last three seasons.
“The emotions will start to kick in,” Roethlisberger said. “They already have, when you think about it. But I think I’m able to put those emotions a little bit on the backburner because of the focus of what we have to do to win this game. … It’s a division opponent. They’re hungry to come in here and get a win, too, so I can’t sit here and be nostalgic about everything that my career has been when I’ve got to focus on this game because this is the most important game of the season for us right now.”
Roethlisberger has thrown for 63,721 yards in his career — which ranks him fifth all time — and 416 touchdowns (eighth).