Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) hands the ball off to Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) against the New England Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Ben Roethlisberger will delay his retirement plans for at least one more season, so here are five reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers can send their QB off as a champion
Over the last few weeks, Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what would happen with Ben Roethisberger. Not long ago, the Steelers quarterback made a comment about weighing the possibility of retirement, but Big Ben made it clear on Friday that he would be returning for his 14th season with the team.
When Roethlisberger does end up deciding to call it a career, whether it happens to be after next season or a few years from now, there’s no question he will go down as one of the toughest and greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Between being a two-time Super Bowl champion along with the numerous records he’s set throughout his career, the only reason Roethlisberger seems to want to continue playing at this stage is to help bring a seventh championship to Pittsburgh.
Of course, if Roethlisberger does find a way to win the third Super Bowl of his 14-year career in 2017, retirement should be a no brainer, as he would get the opportunity to go out as a winner, which is never easy to accomplish. The New England Patriots may seem like the early favorites to represent the AFC in next year’s big game, but here are five reasons why the Steelers could win next year’s Super Bowl to give Big Ben the perfect chance to end his career as a winner.
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant (10) (10) against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
5. Return of Martavis Bryant
Around this time last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a major blow to the passing game when Martavis Bryant received a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. For a player with only two years of NFL experience, it was heartbreaking for the Steelers to see this happen to such a young and talented receiver like Bryant, but that didn’t stop them from giving up.
Now that Bryant is scheduled to return next year, it’s almost unfair for the rest of the teams in the NFL to see Pittsburgh earn another dominant receiver in the passing game when considering the offense was already one of the best in 2016. Even if sitting out a year tends to be difficult for most players when they finally return, Bryant seems to be motivated more than ever to prove he’s put his troubled past behind him, and is tired of letting his teammates down.
From 2014-15, Bryant managed to catch 76 passes for 1,314 yards to go along with 14 touchdowns in the 21 games he appeared in, and the thought of him playing alongside a dangerous wide receiver like Antonio Brown seems terrifying for defenders. Hopefully, the 2017 season turns into a year of redemption for Bryant to give Pittsburgh even more of an advantage on offense.
Jan 1, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell (34) rushes the ball against Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
4. Defense Played Well Down Stretch Last Year
Throughout the years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have established a reputation for having one of the top defenses in the league, but to say they were a disaster in the first half of the 2016 season would be one of the biggest understatements of the year. Just look at how much the unit struggled in the third game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was clear the Steelers needed to figure out a way to turn things around before it was too late.
It may have taken longer than it should have after losing four games in a row at one point during the regular season, but Pittsburgh’s defense eventually found a way to get their act together to become one of the hottest units in the second half of 2016. In fact, if it wasn’t for the stellar play of the Steelers’ defense, there’s a good chance they never would have finished the year on a hot note by winning their final seven games to claim the AFC North title over the Baltimore Ravens.
The loss of the veteran leadership Lawrence Timmons would always bring to the table will certainly hurt now that he’s a member of the Miami Dolphins, but the presence of players like Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt will still have Pittsburgh in good shape. Assuming the defense picks up right where they left off at the end of the 2016 season along with having one of the league’s top offenses led by Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will be in good shape to make another Super Bowl run next year as well.
Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) rushes the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the second quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
3. Le’Veon Bell Motivated For Long-Term Deal
It’s only been four years, but Le’Veon Bell has wasted no time emerging as one of the top running backs in the league. And if it wasn’t for a devastating injury suffered in the first quarter of the AFC Championship last January, it would have given the Pittsburgh Steelers a better chance of defeating the New England Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl.
Leading up to the game, the Patriots did everything in their power to come up with the proper game plan to keep Bell in check, and they certainly received an extra advantage when he suffered that groin injury early on in the game. The fact that Bell received 59 carries in the previous two playoff games leading up to the AFC Championship shows how much of a workhorse he is, and it wasn’t a surprise to see the Steelers slap him with the franchise tag before the start of free agency.
With Pittsburgh locking up Antonio Brown to a new five-year deal, it seems like only a matter of time before they decide to do the same with Bell to make sure the team remains strong Super Bowl contenders in the AFC for years to come. But if that’s ever going to happen, Bell will need to make sure he has another strong season in 2017, which should be plenty of motivation for the former Michigan State standout.
Jan 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs with the ball en route to a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2. Antonio Brown Finally Got Paid
Speaking of that new five-year deal for Antonio Brown, give the Pittsburgh Steelers credit for showing their commitment to their star wide receiver after seeing the numbers he’s put together over the last couple of seasons. With Brown locked up through the 2021 season, the Steelers will still be in amazing shape on offense even when Ben Roethlisberger retires, assuming he calls it a career before then.
Not only has Brown found the end zone 35 times over the last three seasons, but he’s managed to record more than 100 catches each year dating back to 2013. Brown’s speed and quickness on the football field almost makes it impossible for opponents to defend, and now that he doesn’t have to worry about his future with the organization, expect the wideout to display similar numbers in 2017.
Big Ben may be fortunate enough to have already won two Super Bowls, but Brown is still searching for his first ring after the Steelers lost the big game to the Green Bay Packers during the wideout’s first year with the team during the 2010 season. Pittsburgh has been considered a Super Bowl caliber team over the last few seasons, but with the clock ticking on Roethlisberger’s career, Brown will need to live up to his new deal by coming through with another monster season.
Jan 22, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes the ball as New England Patriots defensive lineman Malcom Brown (90) chases in the 2017 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
1. Steelers Extra Motivated After Losing AFC Championship
Remember in the middle of the 2016 regular season when all hope seemed lost for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North after losing four games in a row to drop their record to 4-5? To hit that low point in the regular season, only to follow it up by winning their final seven games of the regular season to clinch the division was simply amazing for the Steelers, and made them one of the hottest teams in the AFC entering the playoffs.
Even though they were the No. 3 seed, Pittsburgh was considered the one team that seemed to be capable of taking down the New England Patriots to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Don’t be fooled by the final 36-17 score as this game could have been much different for the Steelers if they weren’t forced to play a majority of the contest without star running back Le’Veon Bell.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Bell was forced to leave in the first quarter of the AFC Championship due to a hip injury, forcing the team to take a completely different approach on offense. Nothing can take away that awful taste left in the mouths of Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers losing that game to the Patriots, and the only way to officially get over what took place is to bounce back with a Super Bowl win next year.
If Pittsburgh does manage to make this happen to provide Big Ben earn that third ring, retirement would seem like a no brainer at this point. Just like his former teammate Jerome Bettis, Roethlisberger would have the opportunity to ride off into the sunset with his final NFL appearance being a Super Bowl victory, which would be the perfect ending to an outstanding career for the Steelers quarterback.