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Our One Constant in Steelers Football Is Gone, And Now We Start Over

For the first time in my football life, I'm old.

It's pretty apparent at times that I'm a little younger than many in this industry. Constantly, I find myself in conversations about NFL history, only to be thinking as far back as I can remember. And like so many of you, it starts and ends with Ben Roethlisberger. 

I can tell you about watching Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox on Sundays. I could tell you the stories of both who and what the Steelers were before I knew what football even was. But I didn't start yelling at the television and acting like NFL players in the backyard until Big Ben put on a Steelers jersey.

My only disappointment with Roethlisberger's career is that he didn't announce the end on Jan. 25 - my birthday - because man, talk about a sign if I wrote Ben's retirement story the day I turned 26.

Really, what this makes me think about, though, is that I'm old. It feels like all of this should've happened a long time ago, but even if the mental hurdle is already over, you don't want it to happen. 

Why? Because for the first time in many of our football lives, this is the first time we know no constants.

Over the last 18 years, every single team in the NFL made significant changes to their roster. Steelers and Tom Brady included. But the one thing we knew to be true, was that Ben Roethlisberger was playing football in Pittsburgh. 

Talk about a comfort zone. 

Before I knew anything about football, I learned everything I know about Roethlisberger from my dad. He used to say things like "it's the playoffs, Ben doesn't lose in the playoffs," and "you want to know who would make that play? Ben."

I had no idea what he was talking about. I would just shake my head and agree, but knowing these things made this life a lot easier, let me tell you. 

It took no time at all for those "Ben would make that" plays to click - and you realized quickly, everything people say about this guy is true. 

"It's been unbelievable," JuJu Smith-Schuster said on his QB. "Honestly, I can give that guy my whole career. I appreciate all the other quarterbacks that I've played with in the past, but he's one special, unique guy.

"When I first came in, I used to tell everybody I used to watch Big Ben and I've always wondered what it felt like to be in that huddle. To go down a drive and score the winning touchdown. Fast-forward 10 years and I'm in that huddle. ... Everything he's done up until now, I appreciate him so much."

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“The way he has battled, the way he is always giving us a chance," Cameron Heyward said on Roethlisberger. "When you talk about having toughness as a quarterback and you talk about a guy that is just going to give you everything he has, you can’t ask for anything more from that man right there."

And now it's over. Roethlisberger hung up his cleats one last time and road off into the sunset like the ol' cowboy deserved to. And for the first time in my life - and many of yours - I have no idea what's going to happen.

I don't have any suggestions on finding a new comfort zone in this football world. If you have any, let me know. 

But the future feels good. It's exciting to search for a new quarterback, and if it's done right, it could be smooth and successful. Plus, offsetting Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen by a few years isn't the worst thing in the world. 

With success comes pain, I guess. 

And with that, I thank you, Seven. It's been a hell of ride. The rest of us will figure it out from here.  

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