Ron Cook: No doubt Ben Roethlisberger will play on

Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to meet with Dan Rooney and Art Rooney II today at Steelers headquarters. He has a dinner planned tonight with Mike Tomlin. I’m hoping Antonio Brown gets invited to both. I’d love to watch on Facebook Live. I’m guessing you would, too.

Roethlisberger made national news Tuesday on his 93.7 The Fan radio show when he didn’t commit to coming back to the Steelers next year for a 14th NFL season. “I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options. To consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season … if there’s going to be a next season.”

Reached by telephone later Tuesday, Roethlisberger didn’t back down from those comments. “I’m not trying to be a drama queen or whatever they say I am. And I’m not saying I’m not coming back. I just think it’s prudent for anyone who’s played the game as long as I have to talk to the people you love and make the best decision about your future for you and your family. All that says about me is that I’m smart.”

Roethlisberger also said he mentioned possible retirement to Tomlin in the past. “Maybe after last season I did. I’m sure we’ll have the same conversation again after next season if that’s how it plays out.”

I’m taking Roethlisberger at his word. He has reached the point of his career when he has to start thinking about life after football. He has been incredibly successful. He has played on two Super Bowl-winning teams. He owns virtually every Steelers passing record. He will be enshrined, for sure, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has made fabulous money; his net worth has been estimated at $70 million. Maybe most of all, he has his health. He sounded almost envious of one of his best pals, Heath Miller, who retired after last season in one piece, physically. Roethlisberger, too, wants to be able to play with his three young children and live normally for the rest of his life.

But I have absolutely no doubt Roethlisberger will play next season. I know what Chuck Noll used to say, that when a player starts thinking about retirement he should go ahead and do it because his mind and heart won’t be in the job. I don’t believe that’s true with Roethlisberger. He still loves the game although he could do without a few things in it, specifically social media. He has a lot of great football left. He is too competitive to walk away from a Steelers team that went to the NFL’s final four this season and has a good chance to get back next season for another swing at another Super Bowl. And, yes, he has too much more money to make — $12 million in 2017, $17 million in 2018 and $17 million in 2019. Pro Football Talk reported he would have to repay the Steelers $18.6 million from the signing bonus in his latest contract if he retires now.

But that doesn’t mean Roethlisberger’s meeting with the Rooneys and dinner with Tomlin won’t be interesting. After every season, he tells them what he thinks is good about the team and what isn’t so good. He will have plenty to say.

When a team makes it to the AFC championship, there is much good. The offense, which is Roethlisberger’s primary concern, should return the entire line, which Roethlisberger adores. The Steelers are expected to try to sign Brown, who has a year left on his contract, and Le’Veon Bell, who is a free agent, to long-term deals. They could and likely will keep Bell for another year with their franchise tag. Martavis Bryant also is expected back after being suspended this season for failed drug tests. Roethlisberger was his most loyal supporter when Bryant was suspended for four games at the start of the 2015 season but soured badly on him after his season-long 2016 suspension because he felt Bryant lied to him. Roethlisberger said Bryant reached out to him late this season, presumably to start to rebuild their relationship.

But not all is perfect with the Steelers. Roethlisberger talked publicly about it at midseason when he said, “We are undisciplined and not accountable.” It became an issue again in the playoffs when Brown revealed to the world via Facebook Live the scene in the team’s supposedly sacred locker room after its win in Kansas City, an incident that infuriated Tomlin and contributed to Roethlisberger’s disdain for social media. Then Sunday night, in the loss to the New England Patriots, Brown sulked on the field and sideline because the ball didn’t come his way enough. The NFL Network’s Aditi Khinkabwala reported that Roethlisberger had to talk to Brown about it during the game, a fact Roethlisberger didn’t deny on his radio show. “I don’t remember … Maybe I got hit or something.” Roethlisberger laughed, but it was the first time all season he avoided a question on his show. His nonresponse said a great deal. So did his use of the word “pouting” when asked a follow-up question about Brown in his radio interview.

This wasn’t the first time Brown’s antics were an issue. He showed up Landry Jones and even Roethlisberger on the field earlier in the season. He ticked off many teammates by jogging back to the line of scrimmage in the first Miami game when the team was running its 2-minute drill. Brown’s selfishness isn’t expected to sabotage a long-term offer from the Steelers, but it certainly complicates the process.

Tomlin was hard on Brown after the video fiasco, saying publicly that Brown was “foolish, selfish and inconsiderate.” Maybe it’s the start of Tomlin taking a tougher stance with Brown. In his final news conference of the season Tuesday, Tomlin said he wasn’t aware of Brown’s sideline pouting Sunday night — excuse me if I have a hard time believing that — but promised to “continue to challenge” Brown to grow as a player and a person.

I’m thinking that challenge won’t include an invitation to dinner tonight.

No sense for Tomlin to take unnecessary chances, right?

Matt Freed/Post-Gazette


Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger not sure if he will play in 2017

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told a Pittsburgh radio station Tuesday that he will take some time with his family before deciding if he will return for the 2017 season.

"I'm going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that, and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there's going to be a next season, all those things,” Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan.

"I think that my point in my career and my age, I think that's the prudent and smart thing to do every year."

Coach Mike Tomlin said he and Roethlisberger have not spoken about it yet, as the 13-year veteran quarterback is typically one of the last players with whom he meets at the end of a season.

"He said it, so you do take it seriously," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. "I think it's a fair assessment, in terms of where he is in his career, but I'm not alarmed by it. That's football. Obviously I'm hopeful that he returns, and his potential for returning or not returning will weigh heavily in our planning, but I'm not alarmed or surprised by his thought process.

"He's the most significant component of what we do. We'll react, and plan accordingly."Roethlisberger will be 35 next month. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes in 2016, throwing 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Regarding next season, he told The Fan on Tuesday, "I'm going to take some time to evaluate with my family and really do a lot of praying about it, and make sure it's the right thing for me and my family."

He added, "I'm not by any means saying I'm not coming back, or anything like that. I'm just saying at a point in my career, I think it's prudent -- just like I'm sure James (Harrison) is doing and other guys that have been in this league a long time -- to evaluate, to just make sure, because you want to be able to leave this game walking out of it in a healthy spot. Don't want to be 'carted out.' Don't want to leave this game and be worse for the wear."

Many fans say they're not shocked by his indecision and have theories as to why: tired after a long career, disappointed by a bitter end to the season and locker room drama.

"I kind of saw it coming. I don't think he's into the locker room kind of stuff that's been going on with Antonio Brown and Tomlin and everything," Steelers fan Tim Mills said. "I think he's here to play football. There's too much other stuff going on."

Steelers fan Saleh Snowden said the quarterback has accomplished a lot in his career, and making a transition at this time in his life makes sense.

"He's worked for the Steelers for a while and has done his best for the team, so I feel he deserves a retirement if he chooses to do it," Snowden said.

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