Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement isn’t official, but by all accounts it appears imminent. And Monday night sure looked like his final home game at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, as he was honored by teammates before the game and took a lap around the field after the game to thank the fans.
And the game ended just like he hoped — with a win.
“I’m just so thankful for the fans, my family obviously. The good Lord has blessed me in so many ways,” he told ESPN on the field right after the game. “We still got another game and I’ll be excited and ready to go for that, but this is just an awesome place.”
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) January 4, 2022
It wasn’t pretty — Roethlisberger completed 24 of 46 attempts for only 123 yards, an NFL record for fewest passing yards in a single game with at least 45 pass attempts — but the legendary Steelers quarterback threw a touchdown pass and held on for the win, 26-14 over the Cleveland Browns.
“It’s funny because probably not the way you wanted it other than the win,” Roethlisberger said in his postgame press conference. “And that’s all that really matters. And that’s been the story of my career: Not always pretty, but we find a way.”
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/4iO5EUm88n
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2022
It marked his 164th win as a starter, the most in NFL history for a QB with one team, and the fifth-most overall. And 92 of those victories came at Heinz Field, the fourth-most home wins with one team for an NFL QB.
After his TD pass to Diontae Johnson in the second quarter, Roethlisberger was greeted with hugs from numerous teammates. Prior to the game, fellow Steelers captains Cam Heyward and Derek Watt stopped short on their walk to the coin toss, allowing Roethlisberger to do the honors alone.
After the game, which Roethlisberger got to close out in “victory formation,” the QB tried to soak in the fans’ cheers one last time. The Steelers are 8-7-1 with a slim chance to make the playoffs, but if they did they would certainly open with a road game.
“Heinz Field is so special to me, just like this city is, and even you guys (the media) for the most part,” Roethlisberger said with a smile. “I’m very thankful and blessed to call this home.”
What could be Big Ben's final lap around Heinz Field 🥺
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 4, 2022
Big Ben hugging his kids after the win ❤️ pic.twitter.com/gFbWaXh2AU
— ESPN (@espn) January 4, 2022
In his press conference, Roethlisberger was asked if it meant more to beat the division-rival Browns, and specifically if he felt he “owned them,” referring to a recent comment Packers QB Aaron Rodgers made about the Chicago Bears. Roethlisberger answered respectfully.
“I’m just so blessed to play this game, for a long time. Obviously being in the division, you play the Browns a lot, and play the other [teams]. You always want to beat the guys in your division. It’s never easy either. It seems like this game is always physical and it’s always tough, and to come out on top is all that really matters,” he said.
The 2021-22 season, the 18th of his career, is the final one on Roethlisberger’s contract, which he restructured in March. There were questions after last season on if he’d return, and he said at the time, “It’s going to start between me and God, a lot of praying.”
The prayers led him to return to the only professional organization he’s ever known, and one that must now prepare for life without one of its most influential leaders — on the field and off. As the quarterback, he’s a natural on-field leader, but over the past few years he’s become a spiritual leader as well. In the Fall 2020 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine, Steelers chaplain Kent Chevalier talked about Roethlisberger’s influence.
“We’re discussing a passage and you’ve got dudes who are just at their locker, who are not followers of Christ, who are not interested at all, but they’re overhearing the conversation of their veteran players, their guys [in the Bible study]. Ben has been a part of those Bible studies and they’re hearing him share his perspective, his faith in those settings,” Chevalier said.
Opening up about his faith is a journey Roethlisberger had begun about three years earlier when he decided to get baptized.
“Three years ago I got baptized,” Roethlisberger said during a June 2020 ManUp Conference. “I was baptized as a kid; my parents took me as a baby. But I didn’t make that decision. So three years ago now I made the decision to be baptized because I felt like I needed to do that. I wanted to have a closer walk, a better relationship with Jesus, with my wife, with my kids, with my family — become a better person.
“So I think the person that brought me to Him was Jesus. Jesus is the One who brought me back to Him, and I’m so thankful for it because I feel I’m a better Christian, a better husband and a better father today because of His forgiveness of me.”
He went on to say he strives to be a better Christian than athlete.
“I want that to be known, especially to all you young men out there. It’s cool to be a Christian and be an athlete. Go ahead and be the best athlete you can possibly be, and see if you can be a better Christian,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to be a better Christian than I am athlete and football player.”
His playing days may soon come to a close, but he’ll continue to live out his faith in Christ in whatever endeavors he chooses next.
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