Ben Roethlisberger has often questioned whether he’ll continue to play or retire from the NFL, a proclamation that never really alarms his coach or the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, it was a little different in January, after losing the AFC championship game, when he said he was going to take time to “evaluate” whether he’d play in 2017, given his worries about his long-term health and all the hits his body has absorbed.
“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options. To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season,” he said then.
“I’m going to take some time and evaluate with my family and just do a lot of praying about it and make sure it’s the right thing for me and my family,” he continued when asked if he was going to play come fall.
Roethlisberger apparently has done that and now says he is inclined to play this season, just as the Steelers, Coach Mike Tomlin and pretty much everyone expected.
“I’m leaning towards it,” Roethlisberger said (via Dale Lolley of the ObserverReporter.com).
Tomlin has never been “alarmed” by Roethlisberger’s soul-searching. “He said it. So you do take it seriously,” Tomlin said in January. “I think that that’s a fair assessment in terms of where he is in his career. I’m not alarmed by it. I just think that that’s football. Obviously, I’m hopeful that he returns. His return obviously and the potential for his return or not returning will weigh heavily in our planning. But I’m not alarmed or surprised by that thought process. That’s life. He’s a significant component, the most significant component of what it is that we do and we’ll plan and react accordingly.”
Roethlisberger is older now, married and a father. He has suffered a number of injuries over 13 seasons and has played in all 16 regular-season games just three times.
Late in the 2015 season, he spoke of how his growing awareness of how repeated hits can lead to cognitive problems later in life led him to consider whether to tough out an injury the way he always had.
“I was on the sideline thinking, ‘Do I want to go back into this game?’ I was thinking of my family, my lifestyle when I get done with football, with all these injuries … the brain is nothing to mess with,” he said, explaining why he had taken himself out of a game and headed for concussion evaluation. “I was literally on the sideline probably for the first time maybe in my life, thinking about my family and not going back into the game because I did not feel quite right. It was definitely a moment, that’s why I was honest with the trainers and doctors and wanted to tell them exactly what I was going through.
“I feel like I made the right.
“People know me, I’ll play through any injury. I’ve played through a lot of injuries. But the brain is not an injury that you want to play with and play through. I think more people need to understand that. We play football for such a short period of time in our lives. When you’re done, you want to be a father and a husband and be the best I can be. If I have these brain injuries, it’s not worth it.”