Ben Roethlisberger

AFC North Rumors: Ravens, Jackson, Browns, Steelers

Ravens’ general manager Eric DeCosta‘s end-of-season press conference touched on a number of subjects, including the contract extension negotiations with star quarterback Lamar Jackson. While The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec does note that head coach John Harbaugh and DeCosta make it seem as if the deal is imminent, it isn’t guaranteed that Jackson signs an extension before the start of the 2022 NFL season.

“I would say that we’re working at Lamar’s pace. He’s comfortable with where we are right now,” DeCosta stated. He did call negotiations “unusual” with Jackson essentially acting as his own agent. There doesn’t seem to be any rush to get a deal done, though. DeCosta acknowledged that the Ravens are fine with Jackson playing on his fifth-year option, and Jackson seems more focused on the team’s unfinished business after being the AFC’s number one-seed in 2020 but failing to make it to a Super Bowl yet.

Here are a few more notes on the AFC North, starting with another item out of Charm City:

  • DeCosta spoke a bit, as well, about the team’s plan to focus on offensive line this offseason. One of the things that they fear they’ll need to address is the free agency of center Bradley Bozeman. Bozeman moved from guard to center after Matt Skura signed with the Dolphins in free agency last year, and they’re afraid Bozeman’s play has priced him out of Maryland. Baltimore saw Ryan Jensen leave to become the highest paid center in football in 2018, so they’re certainly used to replacing centers. They currently have utility lineman Patrick Mekari, who has started games at all three offensive line positions throughout his young Ravens’ career, and who signed an extension late in the season.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller became close friends as they rehabbed together in Colorado Springs last offseason, dreaming about eventually playing together. According to George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal, Beckham made it clear that if they were to make it a reality, it couldn’t be in orange and brown. Miller informed Thomas that Beckham told him straight up, “Don’t come to Cleveland.” In the end, Miller was traded to the Rams and, following a nasty separation from the Browns, Beckham signed to join him in Los Angeles. The pair are now set to play in Super Bowl LVI against a team Beckham knows all too well from his time in the AFC North.
  • With longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retiring last week, head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert represented Pittsburgh at Senior Bowl practices this week. Despite the quarterback group leaving much to be desired through some injury concerns and bad weather, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus reports that buzz around the event is that the Steelers like Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Willis has shown the best combination of athleticism and arm strength at practices this week and a source informed Kyed that he’s impressed in interviews, as well. The Steelers currently hold the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and could easily see Willis fall to them, as he’s been seen as a borderline first round pick since declaring. They could also risk potentially missing out on him and trade back later in the first round or early in the second and try to maximize need and value.

Ben Roethlisberger Officially Retires

What had been expected for months has now become official: Ben Roethlisberger has called it a career. The 39-year-old tweeted a video making the announcement. 

“I don’t know how to put into words what the game of football has meant to me, and what a blessing it has been. While I know with confidence I have given my all to the game, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all it has given me… The journey has been exhilarating, defined by relationships and fuelled by a spirit of competition… I retire from football a truly grateful man” he said.

“To the Rooney family, the Tull family, Coach [Mike] Tomlin, Coach [BillCowher, the incredible people on every level that make the Pittsburgh Steelers a special organization, thank you for believing in me… To all my teammates and the friendships I have gained, I appreciate you… Putting that jersey on every Sunday with my brothers will always be one of the greatest joys of my life. To Steeler Nation, the best fans in all of sport, thank you for accepting and supporting me as you quarterback over the years”.

Roethlisberger’s 18 years – all with the Steelers – will be remembered most for his two Super Bowl titles (XL and XLIII). The 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year and six-time Pro Bowler retires in fifth place on the All-Time Passing Yards list (64,088).

It had been assumed since December that the 2021 season would be Roethlisberger’s last in the NFL. Against the odds, the regular season finale against the Ravens didn’t turn out as his final game, as the overtime victory, along with some outside help, got the Steelers into the postseason one final time and continued a career-long streak of never having a losing season.

Going forward, the team will have Mason Rudolph and, in all likelihoodDwayne Haskins on the roster at the quarterback position. The Steelers will undoubtedly be one of the suitors for an offseason QB acquisition, but whomever the next starter will be, they will face the tall task of carrying on the standard set by a future Hall of Famer and franchise icon.

Ben Roethlisberger Addresses Likely Steelers Exit

Ben Roethlisberger has not publicly committed to retiring after the season, but a report earlier this month indicated that is his expected course of action.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback said Thursday his likely Heinz Field finale will come Monday night. The Steelers still have a shot at winning the AFC North, and thus booking a first-round home game, but Monday’s matchup with the Browns will almost certainly be Big Ben’s final home game with the team.

Looking at the bigger picture, I would say all signs are pointing to this could be it — regular season, that is,” Roethlisberger said, via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor. “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.”

Although this has not been one of Roethlisberger’s best seasons, the Steelers will certainly feature a QB void once their 18-year starter moves on. Mason Rudolph is signed beyond this season, but the franchise has long tabled an acquisition of a true heir apparent. The Steelers agreed to bring Big Ben back, at a reduced rate, this year. Saddled with an inexperienced offensive line, Roethlisberger has thrown 20 touchdown passes compared to eight interceptions. The 39-year-old passer sits 24th in QBR.

Roethlisberger did not slam the door on playing for another team beyond this season, but that should not be expected. It is rather difficult to envision another team bringing him in to start at age 40. That said, the Steelers would be in better position to return to the playoffs had Roethlisberger not tested positive for COVID-19 in November. The Rudolph-quarterbacked tie against the Lions has the Steelers holding a 12% chance to make the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight.com.

Evaluating Steelers’ 2022 In-House QB Options

After 18 years in the National Football League, it’s sounding more and more likely that the 2021-22 season will be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last. Over the last few years, Pittsburgh has taken stabs at potential replacements for Roethlisberger, usually utilizing late-round draft picks in hopes of molding a young prospect into a starter. But Roethlisberger potentially putting an end to his career when the season concludes places a lot more pressure on the Steelers to come up with a solution.

The easiest solution is to use the materials you already have. Pittsburgh currently has two quarterbacks on the active roster behind Big Ben and one on the injured reserve. Former first round pick Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs, currently on IR, both have contracts that expire at the end of the season, but it’s easier to have contract discussions with players already in the building than not.

Mason Rudolph is the team’s current primary backup. Rudolph beat out Dobbs for the second quarterback job and took over as the team’s starter in 2019 when Roethlisberger was ruled out for the season after an elbow surgery. Rudolph went 5-3 as the Steelers’ starter before getting benched for Devlin Hodges after struggling against a winless Bengals team. He completed 62% of his passes for 1,765 yards and threw 13 touchdowns to 9 interceptions on the year. Before the 2021 season, Rudolph signed a one-year extension, pushing his free agency back until after the 2022 season. Rudolph has appeared in one game this year, filling in as Roethlisberger was held out with COVID-19. In a game that resulted in a tie with the winless Lions, Rudolph completed 30 out of 50 pass attempts for 242 yards, throwing 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

Haskins was taken in the 2019 NFL Draft with the 15th overall pick by the Washington Football Team. He saw some game time for Washington in two games in the first 8 weeks of his rookie year, but earned his first start in Week 9 after the season’s original starter, Case Keenum, could not play with a concussion. Haskins took over the offense for every game but one for the rest of the season as he missed Week 17 with an ankle injury. Haskins retained the starting job to begin the 2020 season, but was benched in a Week 5 game against the Rams. He returned to the field when new starter Alex Smith left the game in Week 14 with an injury. Haskins started the next two games before being benched once again, this time for Taylor Heinicke. Haskins was released the next day due to some controversies with breaking COVID-19 protocols and not meeting the team’s standards off the field. In two years of play, Haskins completed 60% of his passes for 2,804 yards, throwing 12 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.

There are plenty of different directions Pittsburgh could go to replace Roethlisberger should this be his final season. While they haven’t quite proven to be world-beaters, Rudolph and Haskins do provide the Steelers with workable options that are already in the building. If the Steelers decide that they don’t think they can win a Super Bowl with the talent currently in their QB room, they’ll be sure to explore some options via free agency, trade, and the 2022 NFL Draft.

If the likes of Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, Ole Miss’s Matt Corral, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, or Liberty’s Malik Willis don’t pique the Steelers’ interest, Pittsburgh may look into a short-term free agent rental as they have in the past with quarterbacks Michael Vick and Bruce Gradkowski. Quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater are some of the bigger names set to hit the market this offseason that could delay the Steelers’ need to draft a quarterback until some more attractive prospects potentially surface in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh could also trade, as they did for Dobbs, with a number of quarterbacks rumored to be available for a price. Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson is obviously the most available option, due to a league investigation that could result in disciplinary action. 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been rumored to be available due to the expected emergence of 2021’s No. 3 overall draft pick, Trey Lance. Garoppolo is not known to be flashy, but has still accomplished a 30-13 record as a starter in the NFL. Two other veterans that have shown a little frustration with their current squads and may be open to a trade are Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

While Steelers’ management is certainly preoccupied right now with making the playoffs in a wild AFC, they will have much to consider when the season comes to an end. Whoever ends up under center for the Steelers in Week 1 of the 2022-23 NFL season, it will certainly be a change of pace for the franchise if the jersey doesn’t have fourteen letters across the top.

Ben Roethlisberger Expected To Retire

Ben Roethlisberger enters Week 13 as the NFL’s longest-tenured starting quarterback, having been in his Steelers QB1 post since early in the 2004 season. But the veteran Pittsburgh passer is unlikely to play a 19th season in 2022.

The future Hall of Famer has informed some within the organization and some ex-teammates he does not expect to return to the Steelers next season, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Roethlisberger has not announced any retirement plans and is unlikely to do so before season’s end, but Schefter adds it is “highly unlikely” the Pro Bowl passer plays for another team.

While Big Ben put retirement on the table years ago, he instead opted to play a few more seasons. He had the Steelers back in the playoffs in 2020, after they had missed the previous two brackets, and did so after suffering the most significant injury of his career. Roethlisberger endured extensive rehab on his surgically repaired elbow, which ended his 2019 season that September. He returned to throw 33 touchdown passes — the second-highest total of his career — in 2020.

The third quarterback drafted in 2004, Roethlisberger has outlasted both Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. Manning capped his career at 16 seasons, while Rivers walked away after 17. Of the trio, Roethlisberger is easily the safest bet to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The former No. 11 overall pick started in three Super Bowls, winning two, and led a game-winning drive to defeat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Big Ben, 39, is a six-time Pro Bowler whose numbers improved in his 30s compared to playing on defense-powered teams in his early years.

Roethlisberger’s 410 touchdown passes sit eighth all time, while his 62,870 passing yards are sixth in league history. Although injuries have taken a toll on the increasingly immobile passer, he has started 241 career games. Other than a COVID-19 contraction last month, Roethlisberger has started each Steelers game since returning from elbow surgery last year. QBR tabs him 24th through his 10 starts this season, however. The Steelers revamped their offensive line this offseason and have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball, sliding to 5-5-1 after mounting a run earlier this season.

The Steelers reached a pay-cut agreement to bring Big Ben back this season, and they still have not identified a true heir apparent at quarterback. Roethlisberger retiring would put the onus on the organization to do so, though the team does have backup Mason Rudolph signed beyond 2021. Dwayne Haskins can be retained as a restricted free agent in 2022.

Steelers Activate QB Ben Roethlisberger

Some good news for the Steelers’ offense as the team prepares for tomorrow night’s game against the Chargers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and is “is on track to play Sunday night.” The news was first reported by Steelers PR man Burt Lauten (on Twitter).

The Steelers have made the move to activate their 18th-year passer, indeed putting Big Ben in line to play Sunday night in Los Angeles. The Steelers also promoted safety Karl Joseph, who stands to help a team missing Minkah Fitzpatrick, who remains on the COVID list. Kevin Dotson is now on IR as well. Dotson, who moved into Pittsburgh’s starting lineup after mixing in as a rookie, is dealing with a high ankle sprain.

Big Ben landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last weekend, forcing him to miss Sunday’s game against the Lions. The 39-year-old passer had self-reported COVID symptoms to the team and subsequently tested positive for the virus. Roethlisberger has reportedly passed the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, and while he’s not traveling with the team to California, he is on a separate flight and intending to play on Sunday.

The Steelers offense predictably struggled last weekend against the lowly Lions. While backup QB Mason Rudolph did pass for 242 yards, he only completed 30 of his 50 passing attempts, and that came with an extra period of play before the eventual tie. Rudolph also tossed a touchdown and an interception.

Prior to last weekend, the Steelers had won four in a row to bring themselves squarely into the AFC playoff picture. During that streak, Roethlisberger — whose early-season struggles prompted speculation about his job security — was over 200 passing yards per game, had thrown six TDs, zero interceptions, and posted a 104.6 QB rating (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network on Twitter).

Steelers Place QB Ben Roethlisberger On Reserve/COVID-19 List

On Saturday evening, the Steelers announced that they were placing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the reserve/COVID-19 list. As a result, Roethlisberger will miss the club’s game against the Lions this afternoon.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the 39-year-old passer self-reported COVID symptoms to the team and subsequently tested positive for the virus (Twitter link). As Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets, Roethlisberger is vaccinated, so he is eligible to be removed from the COVID list as soon as he returns two negative tests taken 24 hours apart. That gives him a good chance to suit up for what could be a critical bout with the Chargers next Sunday.

For today, QB2 Mason Rudolph will get the nod in Roethlisberger’s place (Twitter link via Rapoport). Rudolph, a 2018 third-rounder, has not played a significant snap since Week 16 of the 2019 season — he started a meaningless Week 17 game last year — and he boasts a 5-4 career record as a starter, a record that is accompanied by a subpar 82.7 career quarterback rating.

However, if the Steelers could pick a game for Roethlisberger to miss this year, today’s matchup would probably be the one they would pick. The 0-8 Detroit outfit is ranked in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of yards allowed per game, and next-to-last in terms of points allowed per game. Plus, Rudolph does get regular opportunities to run the first-team offense in practice, so Pittsburgh should not need to limit its playbook in any way.

The Steelers have won four in a row to bring themselves squarely into the AFC playoff picture. During that streak, Roethlisberger — whose early-season struggles prompted speculation about his job security — is averaging over 200 passing yards per game, has thrown six TDs, zero interceptions, and has posted a 104.6 QB rating (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network on Twitter).

Steelers Not Considering QB Change

After a promising Week 1 victory over the Bills in Orchard Park, the Steelers have lost two in a row. And the struggles that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went through in the second half of last year have persisted into the 2021 campaign, leading some to wonder if Pittsburgh will bench its franchise icon.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, head coach Mike Tomlin is not considering a QB change — yet. La Canfora adds that the decision to make or not make such a move lies solely with Tomlin, who will not face any pressure from ownership in that regard. But Tomlin could be feeling pressure from other members of the organization, many of whom reportedly believe that a change is essential.

The Steelers started the 2020 season 11-0, and while that always felt like a bit of a mirage, Roethlisberger’s performance was at least good enough to support the club’s suffocating defense. The six-time Pro Bowler posted QB ratings of at least 98.7 in eight of his first nine games, but things went south after that. Over his final seven games, including a disastrous wildcard loss to the Browns, Roethlisberger’s rating eclipsed 100.0 only once, and his inability to push the ball down the field was a big reason for that.

As La Canfora observes, Roethlisberger is barely averaging six yards per pass attempt in his last eight contests. Plus, his lack of mobility is not only making it difficult for new OC Matt Canada to run the type of offense he wants, it is also exposing the holes of a suspect O-line and making life more difficult for the running game.

Backup Mason Rudolph has not exactly lit the world on fire during his nine professional starts, but he might at least be a better fit in Canada’s scheme. So while Roethlisberger’s job is safe for now, the 39-year-old may need to show a significant improvement to avoid being benched during Pittsburgh’s Week 7 bye.

He and the Steelers will try to get back on track in a difficult matchup against the Packers at Lambeau Field this afternoon.

Injury Notes: Steelers, JPP, Jets, Mailata

After suffering a pectoral injury in Week 2, Ben Roethlisberger is not in jeopardy of missing Week 3. The Steelers will have their 18th-year quarterback against the Bengals. Big Ben returned to full practice Friday. He will not have his top receiver available, however. Although Diontae Johnson‘s late-game injury was not believed to be serious, Mike Tomlin pushed back on the prospect the third-year wideout would quickly surmount his knee problem. The Steelers have declared their leading receiver out for Sunday. The third-year pass catcher has run into myriad injury issues as a pro, missing games or parts of games with several maladies last year. The Steelers have contract-year wideout James Washington set to step in as a full-timer.

Here is the latest from the injury front going into the season’s third Sunday:

  • In addition to being unlikely to have Antonio Brown available, the Buccaneers will be down Jason Pierre-Paul against the Rams. The 11th-year pass rusher will miss Week 3 with hand and shoulder injuries; he did not practice this week. Tampa Bay will be set to use first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka more extensively in L.A.
  • Andre Dillard looks likely to return to the Eagles‘ starting lineup for the first time since November 2019. Recently extended left tackle Jordan Mailata is likely to miss Monday night’s game against the Cowboys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. A knee injury is expected to keep the ex-rugby player out of Philly’s lineup, though Garafolo notes the team does not view the setback as serious. Mailata suffered the injury in practice this week, E.J. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer adds. Dillard missed extensive camp time due to a knee injury and has not played an offensive snap since 2019.
  • The Jets will have Zach Wilson in uniform against the Broncos, but the rookie quarterback is playing through a groin injury. The No. 2 overall pick sustained the injury during the Jets’ Week 1 loss to the Panthers, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Wilson practiced fully this week, but Howe adds the BYU product went through an MRI recently. Although Wilson might not be in danger of missing time, this is certainly an issue to monitor.
  • The Packers are likely to be severely shorthanded on their O-line in San Francisco. Elgton Jenkins, who has filled in for PUP list-stationed David Bakhtiari at left tackle, is doubtful to face the 49ers because of an ankle issue. Green Bay will likely be forced to use its third left tackle option against the 49ers, who feature Nick Bosa as their primary blindside rusher. The Packers signed Dennis Kelly this offseason, giving them a potential option at right tackle in the event they slide right-side starter Billy Turner to left tackle.
  • Between their practice squad and active roster, the 49ers have seven running backs. That total balloons to nine if Raheem Mostert (IR) and Jeff Wilson (PUP) are included, and San Francisco’s backfield will be missing more pieces Sunday. Due to injuries sustained in Week 2, Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty are respectively doubtful and out for Sunday night’s game. On the bright side, third-round rookie Trey Sermon has cleared concussion protocol. Despite beginning the season as a healthy scratch, Sermon should be expected to start, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. The 49ers have Trenton Cannon and recent addition Jacques Patrick, an XFL alum the 49ers added off the Bengals’ practice squad, on their active roster and Kerryon Johnson and Josh Hokit on their practice squad.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Dealing With Pectoral Injury

The Steelers continue to deal with injuries, and we can now add Ben Roethlisberger to the list of the walking wounded. Mike Tomlin revealed today that his starting quarterback is dealing with a left pectoral injury.

The head coach wasn’t sure when Roethlisberger specifically suffered the injury during the Steelers Week 2 loss to the Raiders. Per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, the 39-year-old was hit 10 times (including a pair of sacks), and Tomlin made it clear that the team had to do a better job of protecting their quarterback.

“He took too many hits.,” Tomlin said (via Pryor). “We can run the ball better. We can get the ball out of his hand quicker. We can stay on schedule and not get behind the sticks and get in situations where the line of the game is so far that that that enhances the rush.”

Through his first two games of the season, Roethlisberger has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 483 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. If he was forced to miss time, the team could turn to Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins.

Roethlisberger isn’t the only Steelers player dealing with an injury. T.J. Watt left Sunday’s game, while wideout Diontae Johnson suffered an injury on the final play of the game. Devin Bush and Joe Haden missed Sunday’s contest with groin injuries.