This offseason saw both Tony Romo and Jay Cutler retire from football. And according to former Steelers lineman Willie Colon, there could have been even more turnover in the QB ranks, as Ben Roethlisberger apparently came very close to calling it a career.
Colon hasn’t played since he wrapped up a three-season stint with the Jets in 2015, but before that he played six seasons with the Steelers, coming into the league two years after Roethlisberger. Colon told PFT Live that after speaking to Roethlisberger this offseason, he believed the Steelers quarterback was closer to retiring than the public realizes:
“I got to sit down and talk to him and one thing he told me is he did take it seriously,” Colon said. “He’s dealt with a lot of injuries.”
This is definitely true; just last season Roethlisberger tore his meniscus, and his injury history is a long one. He’s started all 16 games just twice over the past seven seasons.
Roethlisberger is also 35; he’s been around a very long time, and hasn’t exactly lived a monk’s life off the field, either, so it’s understandable that he’d be pondering hanging it up. It also helps when you have two Super Bowl rings already, as well.
But he is back, and according to Colon, it’s partly thanks to his confidence in the Steelers protection:
“He’s passionate about playing, but one thing that keeps his fire going is that offensive line,” Colon said. “You have to worry about the health of Ben Roethlisberger. Can you keep him upright, can he stay healthy for the duration? They have the offensive line, they have the pieces around him to make it work.”
It is striking to see that mid-00s generation of quarterbacks near the end stages of careers; Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Phil Rivers, and others are likely nearing the end of their runs as well. That’s a solid group of players, if not a list of superstars, but the quality of the league is dependent upon competent quarterback play, and they might be tougher to replace than we realize.