By Jeremy Hritz
It is hard to believe that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 31 years old and is entering his tenth season in the National Football League. In his nine years, he has delivered two Super Bowl Championships and countless highlights that have resulted in exciting last second victories.
Sadly, the inevitable is that Roethlisberger maybe has five to six productive years remaining in his career with the Steelers before a new face takes over the reins at the quarterback position and leads the Steelers into a new era.
What a sad day that will be, but it is a natural process in the NFL.
With that in mind, if the Steelers are going to win a Super Bowl in the next ten to 15 years, the best chance for that to happen is with Roethlisberger firmly in place as the starting quarterback.
Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are 35 years or older. John Elway played for 16 years, while Brett Favre’s career nearly spanned two complete decades. With the way that Roethlisberger gets beat up from season to season, it is difficult to envision him playing into his late 30s, though his determination and toughness are unquestioned.
These final seasons with Roethlisberger as the Steelers quarterback must be capitalized on as franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees, and the probability of the Steelers landing another one when number seven retires is small. Franchise quarterbacks make all of the difference in the NFL, as they can take a team on their back and lead them to a championship. In 2005 when Roethlisberger earned his first ring, he did so with a receiving corps whose only premier player was Hines Ward. While the cupboard appears to be empty on the offensive side of the ball in 2013, Roethlisberger has proven that he can get it done with a less-than-elite supporting cast.
The bottom line is that with Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers will have a shot at another Lombardi until he decides to call it a day, which hopefully is a long, long way off.
Many questions are surrounding the Steelers in 2013 on defense and at the running back and wide receiver positions, but the team is loaded at the most important position of them all. In addition, several years of drafting high-quality offensive lineman may finally pay off this year, providing Roethlisberger with the protection that he has not had the luxury of enjoying during his career. And there is one element that cannot be ignored when discussion the Steelers 2013 prospects, and that is the fiercely competitive constitution of oft-battered veteran.
If the Steelers do not win a Super Bowl in Roethlisberger’s final years, there may be a significant gap in between the 2008 championship and the next. I do believe that Roethlisberger has one more title left in his arm, and as long as he is leading the Steelers, they will always be in contention.
Next year, and the few years following, Steelers fans need to savor the final seasons with Roethlisberger. Because unfortunately, to quote Robert Frost with a slight adjustment, “nothing black and gold can stay.”