Ben Roethlisberger

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Big Ben, Ravens

Following yesterday’s five-interception against the Jaguars, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger offered a concise report of his performance. “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” Roethlisberger told Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Roethlisberger could have been hoping for levity after a brutal loss, the comments do call into question just how much longer Roethlisberger will play, especially given that he’s contemplated retirement on multiple occasions. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, the idea of forfeiting bonus money could have swayed Roethlisberger into continuing his career in 2017, but that concept will continue in the next few years. If Roethlisberger hangs up it after this season, for example, he’d owe the Steelers $12.4MM in bonus money (of course, Pittsburgh isn’t obligated to collect that total).

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Ravens running back Terrance West is expected to miss time after suffering a calf injury on Sunday, but he won’t facing a lengthy absence, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). West, 26, had been splitting carries with Javorius Allen and Alex Collins, and had managed 39 rushes for 138 yards and two touchdowns this season. With West sidelined, Allen figures to see even more work (he toted the ball 21 times on Sunday) while Collins could also see increased usage. But Baltimore may need to add a running back, as Allen and Collins are the only healthy runners on the roster. Practice squader John Crockett is a candidate for promotion.
  • Tyler Boyd will also be out for a few weeks, as the Bengals receiver sprained his MCL in Week 5, tweets Rapoport. Boyd, who is facing a possible legal situation and was mysteriously a healthy scratch in Week 2, has been almost completely phased out of Cincinnati’s offense this season. The former second-round pick has been targeted only nine times, and managed just six receptions for 43 yards.
  • The Ravens will be without yet another offensive lineman for the next several weeks, as guard Matt Skura suffered a sprained MCL and will miss two-to-four games, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Skura, who has started three games for the Ravens this season, will likely give way to rookie Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard. Baltimore has already lost front five players Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa to injury.
  • Free agent safeties Harold Jones-Quartey and Malik Smith, plus offensive tackles Korren Kirven and Victor Salako, worked out for the Browns, per veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Of that foursome, only Jones-Quartey has NFL experience, as the 24-year-old started 12 games for the Bears in 2016.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Brown, Ben

The Browns lost to the rebuilding Jets and are now 0-5 and, more importantly considering where this franchise stands in the NFL, 1-20 since their new power structure began its tenure. Consistent reports of friction between this team’s decision-making parties have come out of Cleveland, and Jimmy Haslam‘s patience may be wearing thin. The Sashi Brown/Paul DePodesta/Hue Jackson arrangement has yet to produce results, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes a league source predicted a major shakeup could come in the event of a Jets defeat. That happened, and the Browns benched starting quarterback DeShone Kizer for 2016 practice squad promotion Kevin Hogan in the process.

Haslam developed a deserved reputation for being impatient, abandoning previous regimes since taking over the Browns. But this one’s unique effort — placing an even greater premium on draft picks, at the expense of short-term results — has been allowed to persist thus far. However, Florio adds the perception by some around the league is the Browns’ obsession with draft picks doubles as a way for management to preach patience for future success — not unlike an MLB team stockpiling cornerstone high school talent and waiting several years for it to surface in the majors — while avoiding immediate responsibility for the on-field product.

With the Browns set to face the Texans and Texans before a Vikings tilt in London. A Patriots date follows that. Florio notes the London game could double as a Jackson firing window while adding the team could take the route the Lions did recently by firing GM Martin Mayhew and keeping coach Jim Caldwell. That would mean siding with Jackson over Brown. For his part, Jackson said postgame there was “no wavering support” from ownership, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter).

This franchise’s recent history points to a change happening soon. Here’s more from the AFC North.

  • Regarding Cleveland’s quarterback decision, Jackson did not say who he plans to start in Week 6. The second-year Browns coach indicated (via Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter) he needed to watch film to decide between his second-round pick and Hogan, a Chiefs 2016 fifth-round who didn’t make the Kansas City roster out of camp last year. So instead of a Kizer-Deshaun Watson matchup next week, it could be Hogan in command. The Stanford product completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns today compared to Kizer’s 8-for-17, 94-yard, one-INT line.
  • Antonio Brown‘s outburst last weekend wasn’t solely motivated by frustrations on the field, with CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reporting the All-Pro wide receiver was upset by the Steelers‘ decision to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem instead of allowing players to make protest choices individually. Brown has strongly considered kneeling in protest during the anthem, but Ben Roethlisberger helped steer the team toward the stance of remaining in the entrance tunnel as a group during the anthem. Big Ben missing his top target for a would-be touchdown against the Ravens struck a chord with Brown, per La Canfora, who reports the wideout believed Roethlisberger’s decision not to locate him on that play was related to the two’s anthem-based argument. After a loss to the Jaguars today, Brown was diplomatic, saying (via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com) Roethlisberger was going to “bring the best out of us this week.”
  • Myles Garrett limped off the field in the fourth quarter of the Browns’ 17-14 loss but said he did not re-aggravate the high ankle sprain that kept him out for four weeks, Cabot tweets. The No. 1 overall pick described his ankle as merely being “very sore.”

AFC Notes: Hopkins, Big Ben, Colts, Chiefs

Both the Texans and No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would like to reach a long-term deal this summer, and odds are that it will happen, suggests John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Hopkins, due to make $7.9MM as a fifth-year option player this season, became all the more important to the Texans’ cause for 2017 after No. 2 receiver Will Fuller suffered a broken collarbone Wednesday. Fuller’s multi-month absence could mean even more opportunities for Hopkins, who easily led the Texans in both targets and receptions in each of the previous two seasons. Despite having to catch passes from middling or worse quarterbacks throughout his career, Hopkins has a history of terrific production. Thanks to his output thus far, the 25-year-old looks poised to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid wideouts in the coming weeks.

More from the AFC:

  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is keeping all options on the table beyond 2017, including retirement and playing a few more years. “I hope (to play multiple future seasons), but I’m only going to focus on this year,” Roethlisberger revealed Wednesday (via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review). Whether the 35-year-old sticks around will depend somewhat on how much of a beating his offensive line allows him to take this season. “If those guys up front are playing as well as they have been playing, getting sacked (a career-low) 17 times in (2016) — it might keep me around a little longer,” he said.
  • With 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett and free agent signing Kamar Aiken, the Colts have a pair of notable receivers behind starters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. However, the unheralded Chester Rogers has emerged as Indy’s likely No. 3 wideout, according to Kevin Bowen of the team’s website. As an undrafted rookie last year, Rogers accrued 34 targets and 19 catches in 14 games (two starts), and he averaged 14.4 yards per catch. Both Dorsett and Aiken bettered Rogers’ counting stats in 2016, but the second-year man has nonetheless turned into a “virtual 12th starter for the Colts,” writes Bowen.
  • Defensive tackle Roy Miller‘s contract with the Chiefs is a one-year, $1.4MM pact that could be worth up to $2.5MM, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The deal includes $300K in guarantees.

Ben Roethlisberger Could Retire After 2017

The Steelers and their fans should savor the 2017 season because it could prove to be the end of the line for Ben Roethlisberger. The future Hall of Fame quarterback told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette that he may retire after the season. Roethlisberger also revealed that his wife wants him to call it a career sooner than later.

Ben Roethlisberger

“I feel if I commit to anything past right now, I’m cheating now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this season, and I’m going to give it everything I have and afterwards we’ll sit down and do some [thinking] again.”

The 35-year-old Roethlisberger mulled retirement after last season, so it’s not surprising that it’s on the table for 2018. Interestingly, though, it seems a recent study heavily linking football players to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is influencing the 14th-year man’s thinking.

Roethlisberger noted that “being healthy” and “being able to play catch with my kids,” are important, adding, “I feel good mentally, I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players’ brains who were studied had CTE.”

The study actually found CTE in 99 percent of deceased NFL players’ brains that were donated to scientific research, which played a part in former Ravens center John Urschel‘s decision to hang up his cleats Thursday at the age of 26.

If Roethlisberger joins Urschel in retirement next year, it would mark the end of a fruitful era of Steelers football. Since using a first-round pick on Roethlisberger in 2004, the Steelers have made nine trips to the playoffs and racked up three Super Bowl appearances, two of which ended with them raising the Lombardi Trophy. Roethlisberger has been the driving force behind that success, and he’s now coming off a season in which he earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod. Overall, he appeared in 14 games for the 11-win club last year and threw 29 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. The Steelers made it to their fifth AFC title game of Roethlisberger’s tenure, but the Patriots vanquished them, 36-17.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Broncos, Steelers, Browns, Colts

Broncos general manager John Elway is entering a contract year, but the franchise icon expects to sign an extension by the start of the season, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter links). “Yep. I don’t think there will be any doubt,” said Elway, who added that he has no interest in leaving Denver. After thriving as the Broncos’ quarterback from 1983-1998, a stretch in which he won two Super Bowls and made nine Pro Bowls, the Hall of Famer’s success has continued with the organization away from the field. Since Elway took over as the Broncos’ GM five years ago, the club has gone 59-31 with four playoff appearances and another Super Bowl title.

More from the AFC:

  • Speaking with reporters (including Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) on Tuesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was unwilling to say whether he plans to continue his career beyond the upcoming season. “I never commit to anyone more than one year,” stated the 35-year-old Roethlisberger, who indicated that he did seriously consider retiring after last season. “Did you think I was lying?” he said.
  • One of Roethlisberger’s teammates, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, realizes his career is hanging in the balance as a result of the two suspensions he has incurred in three years (via Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today). “I know it’s my last chance,” acknowledged Bryant, who’s back after missing all of last season on account of a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The 25-year-old doesn’t expect any more off-field slip-ups going forward. Regarding the past year, Bryant stated: “I developed better habits. I changed who I hang around. I’ve become a family man. I just had a son, he’s seven weeks. It’s really me developing my life and getting back on track.”
  • Speaking of troubled receivers, the chances of Josh Gordon ever playing for the Browns again are slim to none, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland opines (on Twitter). The suspended Gordon, whom the NFL denied reinstatement two weeks ago, can reapply in the fall.
  • The Colts still aren’t sure when safety Clayton Geathers will return from the season-ending neck injury he suffered last December, writes Kevin Bowen of the team’s website. Geathers, who underwent surgery on a bulging disc in March, started in all nine of his appearances as a second-year player in 2016. If Geathers is healthy during the upcoming season, he should be in line to start alongside free safety Malik Hooker, the Colts’ first-round pick. Otherwise, that role could go to T.J. Green.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Big Ben Was Serious About Retirement

When Ben Roethlisberger announced in April that he would be returning for another season, the news was met with eye rolls by some. Apparently, however, the Steelers quarterback was giving real thought to retirement. Ben Roethlisberger

I got to sit down and talk to him and one thing he told me is he did take it seriously,” retired offensive lineman Willie Colon told Mike Florio of PFT. “He’s dealt with a lot of injuries.”

Because the 35-year-old was giving real thought to calling it quits this spring, it seems very possible that he could be in the same position next offseason. Roethlisberger has taken tons of big hits over the years and he might prefer to spare his body in order to get the most out of his post-football life. Colon personally believes that Roethlisberger can be coaxed into at least one additional season if the Pittsburgh offensive line can protect the pocket.

Roethlisberger has missed six games over the last two seasons, but he’s still producing at a high level. In 2016, he earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl selection as he completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,819 yards and 29 TDs against 13 picks. The Steelers went 10-4 in games with Big Ben as the starter.

In a league where it’s hard to find a good quarterback, the Steelers hope that Roethlisberger will want to play in 2018 and beyond. For now, they’re grateful to have him back for at least one more year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Big Ben Wants Steelers To Take TE?

Is Ben Roethlisberger pushing the Steelers to take a tight end in this year’s draft? According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, Big Ben was at the team’s headquarters within the last two weeks and pushed coach Mike Tomlin to get him “some more help” in the form of a tight end. Meanwhile, in a statement to Pro Football Talk, Roethlisberger issued something of a denial: Ben Roethlisberger (vertical)

The report of me lobbying to draft a tight end or pass catcher is wrong. Coaches and teammates know I love the guys we have and always believe we can win. I trust the organization to do their best selecting players to help us, and and every year they tell me generally the positions they are exploring, but I have not lobbied or demanded we add a tight end or pass catcher or any other position through the draft or free agency.

Last year, the Steelers thought they landed themselves a star tight end when they signed Ladarius Green in free agency. Unfortunately, injuries and possibly post-concussion symptoms kept him from doing much. Jesse James did alright in the starting role, but he’s far from an elite option.

Tight ends O.J. Howard and David Njoku are considered to be big-time talents, but they’ll probably both be off the board when the Steelers pick at No. 30 overall. With later picks, the Steelers could consider tight ends like Gerald Everett, Evan Engram, and Jake Butt.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ben Roethlisberger To Return For 2017

No surprise here, but Ben Roethlisberger is returning for another season. The Steelers quarterback has confirmed that he will be taking the field for the Steelers in 2017. Ben Roethlisberger

Informed the team I am looking forward to my 14th season. Steeler Nation will get my absolute best!,” (Twitter link).

Roethlisberger, 35, mulled retirement earlier this offseason, but the recent expectation has been that he would return for his 14th campaign. Roethlisberger has missed six games over the last two seasons, but he has still been producing at a high level. In 2016, he earned his fifth career (and third consecutive) Pro Bowl nod. In 2016, he completed 64.4% of his passes for 3,819 yards and 29 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. The Steelers went 10-4 in games with Big Ben under center.

Roethlisberger has three years remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2015. He’ll turn 37 in the final year of that deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Steelers, Ravens

The Browns will host North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky for a private workout Friday, reports Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Trubisky’s workout won’t count as one of the Browns’ 30 allotted pre-draft visits because it’s a pro day for prospects who are either from the area (Trubisky’s an Ohio native) or attended college there. While the Browns have two first-round picks (Nos. 1 and 12), they’re only considering using the second selection on Trubisky, relays Cabot. They’re primed to spend the top choice on Texas A&M edge defender Myles Garrett.

More from Cleveland two other AFC North cities:

  • At least one of the Browns’ current QBs, Brock Osweiler, isn’t a lock to stay on their roster. “Brock could be on our team or we could trade him,” owner Jimmy Haslam told Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com. “There’s lots of options out there.” Haslam’s noncommittal attitude toward Osweiler isn’t remotely surprising, as the expectation is the Browns will cut or trade him. It’s fair to say Cleveland only acquired Osweiler (and his $16MM base salary) from Houston this month as a way to pick up a second-round pick. Haslam noted that the Browns are “excited” about that selection.
  • More information on the Browns, who “made a very aggressive” and “long-term” offer to re-sign wide receiver Terrelle Pryor before he inked a one-year, $6MM deal with Washington, Haslam confirmed (via Ulrich). The Browns were reportedly willing to give Pryor $8.5MM per year.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has mulled retirement this offseason, but it seems the 35-year-old will play in 2017. Roethlisberger said earlier this month he’s “leaning towards” continuing his career, and head coach Mike Tomlin revealed Monday the two have had “pretty fluid conversation” about the Steelers’ offseason moves (via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com).
  • Tomlin also laid out Monday what the Steelers’ main needs are entering the draft, telling Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they must add pass rushers and defensive backs who can play man coverage. “Our inability to play man-to-man effectively and our inability to apply pressure on the quarterback without blitzing were issues in that game,”  Tomlin said of the Steelers’ 36-17 loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game, in which Tom Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns.
  • With less than $8MM in cap room remaining, the Ravens are unlikely to pursue any more free agents until at least after the draft, team president Dick Cass informed Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. “We’d like to preserve the opportunity to win a compensatory draft pick,” said Cass. “We really have to wait until [May 9] before we will sign a player, most likely. But you never say never. If an opportunity comes along, we might take it.” Cass added that the Ravens “have to be careful” with their remaining spending space, though he does think they’ll use all of it.

Ben Roethlisberger Leaning Towards 2017 Return

When reports that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was mulling retirement surfaced back in January, no one really expected No. 7 to hang up the cleats. Just one week later, we learned that club officials expected the face of their franchise to return, and that was the last public report on the matter. Everyone, it seemed, just assumed that Big Ben would be back in 2017.

Ben Roethlisberger

But as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk observes, Roethlisberger himself has yet to formally declare his intent to return this season, though it appears as if that could be coming soon. Roethlisberger spoke at the Ignite Men’s Impact Weekend conference at Liberty University on Friday, and he was asked if he’s going to play in 2017. He replied, “I’m leaning towards it” (article via Dale Lolley of the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter).

Roethlisberger has missed a combined six games because of injuries over the past two seasons, but his production has remained strong. He’s now fresh off his fifth Pro Bowl season, in which he completed 64.4% of his 509 passing attempts, amassed 3,819 yards on 7.5 YPA, and tossed 29 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Pittsburgh has regularly been a league superpower since it drafted Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004, having finished with no fewer than eight wins during any of his 13 seasons and gone to the playoffs nine times. Two of those postseason trips have culminated in Super Bowl victories, the latest of which came at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign.

Backup signal-caller Landry Jones recently signed a two-year deal with the Steelers, but the team seems intent on selecting a quarterback in the 2017 draft, which they have not done since they drafted Jones in 2013. This year’s crop of QBs, however, is considered to be rather weak, so it is unclear if Pittsburgh will really be able to find Roethlisberger’s heir apparent in 2017.

Roethlisberger has three years remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2015. He’d owe the Steelers $18.6MM if he were to walk away.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.