PITTSBURGH — Acknowledging that he doesn’t speak in “definites” or “guarantees,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that Monday night against the Browns will likely be his final home regular-season game with the franchise.
“Looking at the bigger picture, I would say all signs are pointing to this could be it — regular season, that is,” Roethlisberger said Thursday. “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. In the grand scheme of things, in terms of regular seasons, signs are pointing that way that this could be it.”
Roethlisberger, who returned this year after reducing his pay in the offseason, has played his entire 18-year career with the Steelers after being drafted 11th overall in the 2004 class. Through the nearly two decades spent in Pittsburgh, the two-time Super Bowl winner has racked up 63,721 passing yards, 416 touchdown throws and six Pro Bowl selections.
Despite his numerous accolades, Roethlisberger doesn’t want any pomp and circumstance ahead of Monday night’s game.
“I just want to win the football game,” said Roethlisberger, who has a franchise-record 163 wins. “That’s all that matters to me. That’s always been my thing. I found out last week I’ve got 91 wins at Heinz Field and broke a tie with Brett Favre for quarterbacks winning in one facility.
“To me, that’ll always mean more than yards and touchdowns and wins. I’m sure you can go back to my very first press conference, all I’ve ever said I wanted to do was win. And that’s what is most important to me. That’s what’s going to be most important. I don’t care if it’s 3-0. I just want to win a football game because it’s so important for our season.”
Roethlisberger, 39, hasn’t previously publicly acknowledged that the 2021 season would be his last, but it’s been expected in the organization for some time, and he began telling some in the organization and former teammates of his plans earlier this month, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“It’s 18 years, almost half my life I’ve given to this city and this team and these fans,” the quarterback said. “But the fun thing is, I know I still have it in the tank to go out there this week and next week and give it everything I have to do everything I can to get us into the postseason. That’s always the ultimate goal, to win us a Lombardi. That’s still my goal. We’re not out of this thing yet.”
Roethlisberger laughed when asked if he would consider returning to the Steelers in the future if they needed a quarterback in a pinch.
“No, no, I don’t think they’ll ask me to come back,” he said. “I think I’ve been here long enough.”
Roethlisberger said he didn’t begin the year planning to retire at the end of the season but admitted the “writing was on the wall” after the team gave him a new deal in March that voids after the 2021 season.
“Coming into this season, I’ve always been one who’s wanted to fulfill my obligation to the team with contracts,” he said. “I don’t have a contract next season. I guess the writing was on the wall from them, but kind of all of us together. I wouldn’t say that I had my mind made up by any means.
“But I had my mind made up coming into this season that I was going to give it everything I had to try and win a Super Bowl.”
The stakes for what will likely be his final regular-season home game are high. The Steelers are outside the playoffs with two weeks left. But beating the Browns — a division rival who ended their season a year ago in the first round of the playoffs — would keep the Steelers alive in the hunt for the postseason, while all but eliminating Cleveland from contention.
“My focus is winning this game. If it is indeed my last regular-season game here, it’s going to be one of most important games of my career,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve been so blessed to play in front of the best fans in all of sports, the best venue. What better way to have a last regular-season potential game than Monday Night Football against a division opponent. It’s just special.”
Though Roethlisberger is holding out hope that he could have one more game at Heinz Field in the postseason, the Steelers are 11th in the AFC standings, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) and Baltimore Ravens (8-7) in the division. After hosting the Browns on Monday, the Steelers will finish the regular season on the road in Baltimore.
“I hope that the fans will say I never quit,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve given everything I have. Shoot, last week I was begging to get back in the game, down 30 with nine minutes to go. Coach, let me go in that series and not the next one. Minnesota, down whatever. I just don’t know how to quit. So I’m going to give everything I have to this game, to this team, to this season.”