Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger retires after 18 seasons: 'I retire from football a truly grateful man'

ByBrooke Pryor via via logo
January 27, 2022, 11:09 AM

PITTSBURGH -- After 18 seasons as the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement Thursday morning.

In a video posted to his Twitter account, Roethlisberger announced what became obvious over the final weeks of the 2021 season.

"The journey has been exhilarating, fueled by a spirit of competition," Roethlisberger said. "Yet the time has come to clean out my locker, hang up my cleats and continue to be all I can be to my wife and children. I retire from football a truly grateful man."

In a statement, Steelers president Art Rooney II said, "... we are forever grateful for all the success he has helped bring to the organization for the past 18 years. Ben will always be viewed as one of the all-time greats in our team history, and his determination, toughness and competitiveness will be remembered by everyone in the organization as well as Steeler Nation throughout the world."

Roethlisberger, 39, finished a likely Hall of Fame career with two Super Bowl wins, Rookie of the Year honors and the fifth-most passing yards (64,088) in NFL history. 

"When I think about you, you identify and you represent everything a Pittsburgh Steeler is," former Steelers coach Bill Cowher said in a video tweeted by the team. "You played with grit, determination and a degree of toughness. I congratulate you on a job well done and without a doubt, I will see you in Canton. Kudos."

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced that Roethlisberger will be eligible for selection in 2027.

"I've been here a long time, and it's been a lot of fun," Roethlisberger said after his final game, a wild-card game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. "God has blessed me. We joke a lot about the Browns and going in there, but it was meant to be that I was going to wear black and gold. Draft day I had a black suit with a gold tie. I'm just so thankful.

"I hope that I'm able to pass the legacy of what it is to be a Steeler from Dan Rooney. ... So hopefully I can pass some of that on to some of the guys that can continue the tradition of what it means to be a Steeler and get passed down."

Drafted by the franchise 11th overall in 2004, Roethlisberger took over the starting job for an injured Tommy Maddox against the Ravens in Week 2 of his rookie season. He led the Steelers to a 15-1 regular-season record before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Roethlisberger won his first Super Bowl a year later against the Seattle Seahawks. He won another three years later, defeating the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII on his game-winning touchdown throw to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds left. He finished his career with a franchise-record 165 regular-season victories, fifth most in NFL history. He also earned a .670 regular-season winning percentage as a starting quarterback, the second highest in franchise history and sixth highest in NFL history.

"Ben has always been a fighter," teammate Cam Heyward said. "Always given us a chance. He's battled a lot. He's been rewarded with two Super Bowls, but we needed every bit of Ben Roethlisberger in every game he's played. You can't just replicate that."

JuJu Smith-Schuster and T.J. Watt were among Roethlisberger's Steelers teammates to salute him on Twitter.

For all the highs of Roethlisberger's 18-year tenure as the Steelers' starting quarterback, there were also significant lows. Roethlisberger was twice publicly accused of sexual assault. He was never prosecuted in either case, but he was suspended four games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in 2010.

In 2019, Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2. He underwent surgery to reattach three torn flexor tendons in his right elbow, but he made a full recovery and returned by training camp the next season.

Roethlisberger's retirement announcement is hardly a surprise. He signed a one-year extension following the 2020 season to lower his salary and cap hit and return for one more shot at a third Super Bowl championship.

"Almost half of my life has been here playing football for the Steelers," Roethlisberger said in June. "That's why I told them I would take a pay cut to stay here to help this team because this is what I believe in, this group and this city. To each quarterback out there, to each their own, but this is home, and this is why I'm honored to have my career be here."

Roethlisberger's final season didn't reach the high he'd hoped, but the Steelers managed to sneak into the playoffs despite a 1-3 start and a three-game winless streak in the middle of the season. He threw for 3,740 yards and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in his final season.

"Man, he was seven," Tomlin said after the Steelers' playoff loss. "It's been an honor and a pleasure. I don't have the words."

In the final weeks of the 2021 season, Roethlisberger acknowledged that all signs were pointing toward the Week 17 game against the Browns being his final home game. After beating the Browns, a teary-eyed Roethlisberger lingered on the field and ran around part of the stadium, high-fiving fans before walking up the tunnel arm in arm with his wife and three kids.

"This is home," Roethlisberger said then. "I was born in Ohio, but I live here, and I'll always be here. These fans and this place means so much to me and my family and always will. I've always said they're the best fans in all of sports, and I'll stick by that ['til] the day I die.

"To see all the signs and jerseys and towels, and to hear them cheer for me coming out of the tunnel, all that stuff, I don't know that I'll ever put it into words. I wish I could bottle it and have it forever. But I will in here and in my mind."

Roethlisberger's official retirement announcement was understated, a window into his post-retirement life. After the fanfare of his final games, Roethlisberger now turns his focus to his family.

"I am excited, just because I get to go home," Roethlisberger said about the next phase of his life after losing to the Chiefs in the playoffs. "... We've got snow, so the kids are already planning tubing and doing sledding and stuff. So, being a husband and father, you never take a day off. You've got to keep going, and so, as we move from one chapter to the next, it's going to be different, but it's going to be fun, it's going to be a challenge and I'm looking forward to it."

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