Last week former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark re-upped with ESPN, getting a two-year contract extension from the network. Days later he appeared on Get Up to address the touchy subject of Ben Roethlisberger’s NFL future and became the latest former teammate to urge Big Ben to retire.
“Man, Ben, please just retire. Don’t make me do this,” said Clark. “It’s hard to say because I love Ben. The reason I have a Super Bowl ring is because Big Ben Roethlisberger was big-time in a huge moment. [But] it’s time to move on. It’s time to start over. I don’t believe [the Steelers] win a Super Bowl with him at quarterback, and when you got six rings and when your whole city and whole organization is about winning championships and you have a quarterback who can’t take you there, it’s time to move on and start trying to find a way to get there. I think it’s that time for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Clark went on to liken the situation to that experienced by former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu at the end of his Hall of Fame career.
Ryan Clark: Troy Polamalu Went Through the Same Thing
“I was on the phone with Troy Polamalu when he was going through these things and when he was released and then subsequently retired and the resentment that he felt because of what he had given to the team and what he had sacrificed. And I know Ben feels the same way,” offered Clark, before opining that Roethlisberger has put the team in a tough spot by saying that he is more than willing to re-work his contract to facilitate a return.
“When Ben comes out publicly and says, you know what, ‘I’ll play for this team for nothing. I don’t care about the money,’ it now puts [Steelers general manager] Kevin Colbert in this publicly difficult situation of a quarterback who won you two Super Bowls, who has been your quarterback for over a decade-and-a-half saying, you know what, ‘I will work for free.’ But Kevin Colbert has to look at it and say, ‘Even it’s for free, it might not be for me.’ It might not be for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It might be time to move on.”
To be clear, Roethlisberger hasn’t said he’ll play for the league minimum salary, only that he is willing to re-work his contract.
But as Clark noted, even if he takes a dramatic pay cut, things still might not work out between player and team. At one point Roethlisberger was expected to meet with Steelers brass to discuss ‘roster plans,’ but it appears that meeting has not taken place. It’s looking more and more like the Steelers are hoping the Roethlisberger comes around and decides to retire—or that he “will feel the same way we do,” as Colbert put it.
PFF: Pittsburgh ‘Needs a New Quarterback As Soon As Possible’
Meanwhile, on Friday Pro Football Focus published a piece in which it ranked every NFL team by level of quarterback need, placing the Steelers in the highest tier of need. PFF regards the sense of urgency in Pittsburgh as “very high,” right up there with the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Washington Football Team and the New York Jets.
“The quarterback situation is not looking pretty in The Steel City,” writes Anthony Treash. “There were signs of Big Ben declining back in 2018 when he earned a 75.2 [PFF] passing grade, and he looked rough in his [two starts] in 2019 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. In other words, Roethlisberger isn’t likely to be any better in 2021 than he was this past season. He is going to limit the offense and, if anything, will continue to decline.”
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