Ben Roethlisberger took a drastic pay cut to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, in part because of the team’s financial situation but perhaps also because the 39-year-old quarterback endured a rough finish to 2020, his 17th year in the NFL. Just don’t question Roethlisberger’s status as a top-shelf signal-caller to teammate Cameron Heyward. Addressing the media Tuesday, the All-Pro defensive lineman said he’s tired of people “badmouthing” Roethlisberger and suggested the QB deserves more respect entering the new year — and perhaps Big Ben’s last in Steel City.
“I think we’re just blowing it out of proportion,” Heyward said. “We went 11-0 to start the season. How many other quarterbacks did that? I think we can sit up here and talk about how we lost the game last year. We lost to the Cleveland Browns. OK, so be it. We fell off at the end. We still made the playoffs. But I’m not here to say my quarterback is not able to do it. I’ve seen this guy win Super Bowls on TV. I’ve seen him day in and day out compete, and you just get frustrated. I know Ben puts in work. I know how much he cares about this team. … If he was just here for the money, that’s one thing.
“When I hear the badmouthing about him being a non-great quarterback,” Heyward continued, “and that everybody is ready to elevate other quarterbacks, I’m like, ‘What have they done?’ This guy is a proven winner, but yet we’re ready to discount him. All I was saying was I think having a greater balance is going to make him that much more dangerous. I know our offensive line is in flux, but they’re going to be better because they’re learning a different system. We bring in another running back, our receivers are a year older, bring in another tight end. All these different things, I think, can help Ben, and I’m excited for him.”
The Steelers likely agree — having restructured Roethlisberger’s deal, presumably giving the lifelong Steeler one final chance at leading Pittsburgh to another Super Bowl title. Only time will tell, of course, whether the gamble pays off. Roethlisberger opened 2020 well, even flirting with MVP consideration during the club’s undefeated start, before struggling as the Steelers lost five of their last six games.