The Steelers are without Ben Roethlisberger as they enter 2022 training camp, marking the first time in almost two decades that No. 7 hasn’t been under center. And if it were up to recently retired general manager Kevin Colbert, who stepped down after the draft this spring, the star quarterback would’ve been gone at least a year earlier. Reflecting on his own retirement, Roethlisberger suggested to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week that Colbert wanted him to hang up the cleats prior to the 2021 season.
“It was mostly Kevin,” Roethlisberger told Ron Cook, explaining management’s preference to say farewell. “I think (coach) Mike (Tomlin) was a little ready to move on, but I think he was OK with me coming back. I think Mr. (Art) Rooney really wanted me to come back last year to play.”
Colbert, of course, helped the Steelers identify their next long-term QB (or so they hope) by drafting Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett No. 20 overall this year. He previously oversaw a pay cut from Roethlisberger in 2021, which facilitated the veteran’s return for an 18th NFL season.
“I thought I went out on my terms,” Roethlisberger added. “I never wanted to stay too long. I know some people might think I did. … But I thought I played pretty well last year, to be honest. My arm feels like I still could go out and play. I’m pretty confident I could still play. But it’s every day. It’s mental. Not having to prepare for camp and the season has been the biggest blessing for me. I’m fine with where I’m at with everything.”
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Since retiring, Roethlisberger said he’s stayed in touch with both Pickett and veteran addition Mitchell Trubisky, the current favorite to open 2022 as the starting QB. He told Cook he plans to watch the Steelers this season, likely from his home, and that his next big goal is reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which he’ll first be eligible in 2027.
“I did it for a long time,” Roethlisberger said of his time in the NFL. “I know doing it for a long time doesn’t mean that you get in, but, again, you look at the wins and losses. I think I did it at a high enough level for a long enough time that I think it would be pretty cool to get in. It is a special thing. That is one special place and a special accomplishment.”