In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first season without Ben Roethlisberger, the team limped off to a 1-4 start. Roethlisberger was not the same player he once was at the end of his tenure in Pittsburgh, and on episode 7 of his Footbahlin’ podcasthe said his decision to retire came to him knowing the Steelers didn’t want him back and he couldn’t see himself in any other uniform.
“I knew the Steelers didn’t want me back when I had one more year, so I knew that was it. So I knew my time in Pittsburgh was over, it was just a matter of whether I would playing somewhere else and I couldn’t see myself in any other jersey. So I kind of knew going into last year and most people don’t know that but knew it was because again, The Steelers didn’t want me back again. So I prepared myself for that.”
Roethlisberger also talked about how the locker room didn’t feel the same last year with longtime veterans like Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro gone.
“When most people ask what you miss the most, they say they miss the locker room, they miss the brotherhood in the locker room. It’s something you’ll always miss, but I think I almost didn’t have it last year anyway. Because I didn’t have Pouncey, I didn’t have David [DeCastro]all those guys were gone anyway, the offensive locker room was so different.”
He added that he enjoyed making new friends with Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth and Dan Moore Jr. But Roethlisberger obviously didn’t see the locker room working the same way it did with guys like Pouncey and DeCastro, who were two of his better friends on the team.
It’s also interesting to hear that Roethlisberger thinks the Steelers didn’t want him back. Given his diminished abilities, that may well be the case. While he was still in the mix and managed to lead the Steelers to a playoff appearance, I’m not even sure how many teams around the league would have been interested in his services, which likely made his decision to retire even easier. I think it’s telling that Ben knew prior to the 2021 season that it would be his last season because the Steelers didn’t want him back for another year.
It makes you wonder if Pittsburgh’s front office made it clear in their negotiations to restructure his 2021 contract that this would be Roethlisberger’s last year in Pittsburgh. This contract was made void five days after the end of the 2021 seasonwhich could also have been a revelation to sign Roethlisberger that his time in Pittsburgh was over.
While Roethlisberger’s last season was certainly fun to watch him lead the Steelers to another playoff appearance, I think it was pretty clear to everyone that it was best for both parties to move on. Roethlisberger just didn’t have the ability to lead a team anymore and the Steelers needed to move on and enter a new era. As Roethlisberger said, many of his friends on the team were already retiring, and the Steelers eventually had to move on for the good of the franchise. He said he doesn’t necessarily miss football, or more specifically, getting hit in his first year of retirement.