Having already teared up following what was almost certainly his final game in Heinz Field, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played what is likely the final game of his NFL career on Sunday night, falling to the Chiefs, 42–21.
Afterward, Roethlisberger reflected on the season, and his career, with the organization, telling reporters, “I'm proud to play with these guys.”
“Just a bunch of guys that fought for each other, that fought their butts off and just competed,” he said. “It wasn't always pretty, but there are a lot of games that we found a way. I'm so proud of this group of men and the way they fight for each other, for the black and gold, for our fans. It's just been an honor to play with them.”
Coach Mike Tomlin added that it's “been an honor and a pleasure, man,” referring to coaching the franchise's longtime quarterback.
In early December, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that he has been telling some former teammates and others within the Steelers organization that he expects this to be his final season with the franchise.
While Roethlisberger still has not officially announced his retirement, he appeared to further acknowledge the finality of his career on Sunday.
“I've been here a long time. It's been a lot of fun,” he said. “... It was meant to be that I was gonna wear black and gold. ... I'm just so thankful. I hope that I was able to pass the legacy of what it is to be a Steeler ... Hopefully I can pass some of that on to some of the guys, and the tradition of what it means to be a Steeler can get passed down.”
Should he retire, Roethlisberger will leave the NFL as the Steelers' all-time leader in wins (165), home wins (92) and passing touchdowns (418). The No. 11 pick in the 2004 draft, Roethlisberger, 37, won 13 playoff games and two Super Bowls throughout his career.
“I get to go home tonight, and we've got snow and so the kids are already planning tubing and doing sledding and stuff,” Roethlisberger said. “Being a husband and father, it never takes a day off. You got to keep going. As we move from one chapter to the next, it's going to be different, but it's going be fun. It's going to be a new challenge and I'm looking forward to it.”
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