The end of an era is undeniably nearing. While speaking with the media ahead of Pittsburgh's crucial Week 17 Monday night primetime showdown with the Cleveland Browns, Canton-bound quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admitted that all signs point to Monday being his final game at Heinz Field.
"Looking at the bigger picture, all signs point to this being it," Roethlisberger said.
Whether Roethlisberger plans to retire or play elsewhere in 2022 remains to be seen. Roethlisberger is currently in his 18th campaign with the Steelers after being drafted by the franchise with a first-round selection way back in 2004. Should Roethlisberger indeed retire as a Steeler, it would represent the longest tenure for any quarterback in NFL history to play with just one team. Roethlisberger's residency in Black and Yellow has been successful beyond belief, with the Steelers capturing two Super Bowl titles within that time frame. Roethlisberger is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and a surefire bet to quickly make his way into Pittsburgh's prestigious and star-studded Hall of Honor once he officially closes the book on his illustrious playing career.
We enjoy basking in the nostalgia as we near the end of a historic and fruitful era, but the time for Roethlisberger and the Steelers to go their separate ways has ceremoniously arrived. Although the Steelers remain very much alive in a cluttered and competitive race for the division title in the AFC North, their offense has indisputably struggled throughout 2021. The 39-year-old Roethlisberger has been rather pedestrian. His 6.6 yards per attempt represents the second-lowest mark of his career and is only outdone by 2020's 6.3 yards per attempt, which served as the first of many warning signs that the end was near. Roethlisberger's 20 touchdown passes in 14 appearances also represent one of the worst marks of his modern-day career and is particularly poor by today's pass-happy standards.
Roethlisberger's offensive struggles extend far beyond individual blemishes. Pittsburgh's offense is currently averaging a meddling 316.5 yards per contest while scoring just 20.1 points per game. It represents the lowest points per game output by any team in the NFL that currently owns a record of .500 or better. There is plenty of blame to go around for Pittsburgh's less-than-ideal offensive showings. A young, struggling offensive line which requires several upgrades has unquestionably handicapped its potential. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has failed to grow into his new role, to say the least. Canada’s offense has been big on eye-candy with his penchant for pre-snap motion but continues to fall well short of expectations. While these facts are steadfastly true, the struggles of an offense this poor will always fall on the shoulders of its most important string-puller, and in this case, that's Roethlisberger.
If Monday's showdown with the Browns truly serves as Roethlisberger's last game in Pittsburgh, Steelers fans should flock to Heinz Field in bunches while proudly donning their No. 7 jerseys. Steelers Nation should thank the quarterback that has delivered so much success in an exciting two-decade period. Forever remain grateful to a true legend, but understand that the end has rightfully arrived while embracing whatever comes next.