When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered an elbow injury on Sunday, there was considerable concern that this may be the end of the road. At 37 years old, the former first-round pick from 2004 has played a lot of football and helped his team reach the Super Bowl three separate times. However, he will now miss the remainder of the 2019 season, which puts his future into doubt. Will "Big Ben" retire from the NFL and officially kickstart a new era in the Steel City?
According to offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, it's not quite time to declare this era of Steelers football over. He is very close to Roethlisberger and has been in contact with him since news broke of the impending surgery and trip to Injured Reserve. As Pouncey said, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the veteran QB is already talking about his recovery timeline and whether or not he will be ready to return for minicamp and Organized Team Activities.
"It can’t feel like a new era until [Ben] walks away," Pouncey said. "Until then, this city is Big Ben. It’s Roethlisberger’s team. I know Mason is going in there and he has to take the team in his hands right now, but overall you can never say it’s not Ben’s team until he’s retired."
Considering that Big Ben has flirted with retirement in recent years, it's expected that these questions would arise. However, the Steelers quarterback made it very clear on Monday when he released a statement about his future in the league. As he proclaimed, "I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season."
For now, the Pittsburgh Steelers will forge ahead with the second-year Rudolph as the top option under center, and they will do so with complete faith in his ability to lead the offense. There were moments during the loss to the Seahawks in which Rudolph wildly impressed, such as the flea-flicker to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, but he also made some key mistakes.
Granted, this was a game in which Rudolph played in relief while trying to mount a comeback against a playoff contender. Week 3 in the NFL will be a very different scenario. The youngster will have had a full week to take snaps with the first-team offense during practice, and there will be a game plan built upon his strengths.
Whether or not this results in Rudolph leading the Steelers to victory is unclear, but the coaches and the players all have faith that he will be the perfect man to keep the offense moving until Roethlisberger's return.