How Many Years Does Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger Have Left?

By Jeremy Hritz

Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had what was described as a minor procedure done on his right knee. This sent a wave of anxiety through Steelers Nation and stirred discussion about Roethlisberger’s remaining time in the NFL.

Specifically, on Sirius XM Radio on Ross Tucker’s The Opening Drive, the topic of discussion was how may productive years does Roethlisberger have left?, with Tucker adamantly pointing out that Roethlisberger had played 16 games in only one of his nine seasons. He went on to say that Roethlisberger’s style of play will not afford him the longevity at the quarterback position like that of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Tucker posted the following tweet about Roethlisberger: “Many assume all these elite QBs will play into their late 30’s. I’ll take the “under” on Big Ben….”

This does raise a question that is critical to the stability of the Steelers quarterback situation: how much longer can Roethlisberger play his style of football in the NFL?

At 31 years old, Roethlisberger is entering his tenth season under center. A recent article by Dustin Hockensmith from PennLive.com summarizes Roethlisberger’s injury history, which reads like a itemized list of the human body: “Roethlisberger has suffered chest, rib, thumb, ankle, knee, shoulder, head, hand, and foot injuries throughout his career. And those are just some of his documented ailments; who knows what else he’s played through.” With his unorthodox style and willingness to hold on to the football as long as possible to connect on a play, Roethlisberger has taken too many shots to count. On top of that, he has never been fortunate enough to play behind what could be considered an “elite” offensive line, except for maybe his first two seasons. As a result, Big Ben has been sacked 344 times, something that offensive coordinator Todd Haley was brought in to help change last season.

Roethlisberger did take fewer sacks in 2012, though he did suffer a shoulder/rib injury on a hit against the Kansas City Chiefs that put him out for three games. The 30 sacks that he took were tied for the second lowest amount in his career (he was sacked 30 times as a rookie), though he only started thirteen games. This decrease could possibly be attributable to Haley’s emphasis on Roethlisberger getting rid of the football quickly, something that has been subject to disapproval since that style of play is the antithesis of what makes Roethlisberger great: improvisation.

The question now is can Ben play five or six productive more years by holding true to his inherent gunslinger persona? Or does he have to modify his game in order to achieve longevity? If altering his style of play is the only way that Roethlisberger can play into his late thirties, can he still be effective?

Roethlisberger truly is the driver of the Steelers offense, and without him, their chances for winning another title are tenuous. He must stay healthy, but at the same time, he must be true to the style of play that has made him successful during his career. Unfortunately, that style has sabotaged his last two seasons.

How will the final chapter of Roethlisberger’s career play out? Will he successfully merge his maverick style with Haley’s quick release offense and extend his career? Or will Ben simply be Ben and play the game the way he has always played it? If history tells us anything, for better or for worse, it is that Roethlisberger does things his way. And how that will turn out in terms of health and championships is a question that will be answered only by time.

With that in mind, what do you think? How many more productive years does Roethlisberger have left with the Steelers?

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    If he stays in condition, he can play for as long as any of the other guys. He will continue to adjust his game. He has become a very good pocket passer and doesn’t rely on the sandlot plays nearly as much as he used to.

  • 2443scott

    i am thinking 3 to 4 years and thats only because i think ben will want to go play some golf more while hes still young ..he has all the money he will ever need plus hes married so his life is pretty well set and he loves golf so thats my opinion on how long he will play

  • joefalco

    If he stays healthy and the O-line protects him, No problem to 36plus years, assuming he wants to play that long!

  • Randy Neff

    Ben can be effective without running around extending the play. He has proved that. The past two years he got hurt trying to extend the play. I’m sure the coaches once again have preached about getting rid of the ball. Perhaps even Ashley.

    If the Steelers win the turnover battle and stay healthy, they’ve got a great shot at making some noise this year.

    I’ll go with Ben playing five more years if he sticks with Haley’s scheme.

  • Shea Fahr

    I think the light is on and he does see it…at least from everything I have seen, read and heard so far. With an improved O-Line on the rise, Ben taking maybe a split second less to release the ball and a more mobile run game scheme, he could at least have another 2 to 4 years of high end production.

  • steelmvl

    I think Ben has 5 years left, even tho he’s had a lot of hits

  • dave

    With advances in modern science, and his high level of income, I mean, it’s not crazy to think he can’t live to be 245, maybe 300

    Ok, seriously now – Bradshaw played 14 seasons but hopefully with modern sports medicine Ben can play maybe 16-18 seasons.

    Enjoy him while he lasts, there might be another long 20 year drought until the next “franchise” QB comes along.

  • fred songa

    The OL will be a disaster this year.
    Ben will miss 8 games.
    Don’t worry, Gradowski is a stud.

  • Jason White

    The knee surgery he had doesn’t worry me. Its a simple arthoscopic surgery. I had them before. Its normally a 2-3 week recovery. The worst thing that can happen is fluid buildup which I had on one surgery. It took 2 months to totally recover but Ben has better doctors than I did. I have no doubts that he’ll be ready for training camp. Its Big Ben we’re talking about. Nothing keeps him down for long.

  • dgh57

    The OL will be great this year!
    Ben will play all 16+ games!
    Don’t worry, we won’t need Gradowski!!!

  • dgh57

    With Haley’s emphasis on the short and quick passing game, hopefully a improved running game, and again hopefully a improved O-Line which all should help to take pressure off of Big Ben, I don’t see why he can’t last as long as P. Manning or Brady!

  • kakello34

    I’m concerned about the depth along the o-line. The backups are mostly undrafted camp body types with the exception to Beachum

  • steeltown

    Ben will always be Ben and its helped us win a couple championships. That said, one of the reasons they brought in Haley is to incorporate the short passing game and keep Ben upright, add the potential of the recent high draft picks at OL and the emphasis on an improved run game and overall Ben should be taking less hits in the years ahead (like we saw last season) I say Ben has 4-5 solid high production years left

  • steeltown

    “Gradkowski”

  • Greg F

    I am going to say that Big Ben will play as long as Steve McNair did. Until he is 34. I have been saying this since his 3rd year. Ben is tough and very talented, but so was Steve. The years and hits will catch up with him soon.

    Remember, this is also a guy who almost died in that bike accident a few years ago. All this adds up when you are over 30,

  • PoKey21

    Easy he has probably 2 years left as an elite QB in the league, another 2 years where he can still play and get wins, and a transitional year or 2 where everyone realizes he cant do it anymore. That last year his talents can completely allude him or he might stick it out for 1 after.