Ben Roethlisberger will be back.
About a half-hour after the Steelers' 45-42 loss to the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoffs on Sunday at Heinz Field, the franchise quarterback took to the podium in the press conference room with one particularly pressing personal matter at hand: Will he play a 15th NFL season later this year?
"I definitely have a desire to play football," Roethlisberger replied. "I love this game. I love these guys. It's tough. It stings. You hate losing. You hate to lose at home. I feel bad because I feel like I let the fans down, I let my teammates down. You know, the fans, we gave them so much to enjoy and cheer for this year. But to lose this at home ... I know there will be some that say we had a great season and thanks for the ride. But a lot of them are disappointed like we are. It wasn’t enough. And I feel bad for that. I feel like I let a lot of people down. And I’ll take it all on myself. That’s fine. I have no problem with that. And I will be – I don’t know about contracts and who’s coming back, but I know the guys up front are, so that makes it good for me -- so I look forward to next year with those guys."
When pressed further if that answer meant he wouldn't have to be asked about the subject for the next five months, he replied, "My answer was good enough. I think you guys can take that."
Roethlisberger was 37 of 58 for 469 yards and five touchdowns, though he also committed two first-half turnovers that led to scores for the Jaguars. One was an interception by Myles Jack which led to a 19-yard touchdown run by Leonard Fournette, the other a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Telvin Smith.
Those turnovers helped build a 28-7 lead with less than three minutes to go in the second quarter. But when the Steelers offense was backed up against the wall, Roethlisberger came out swinging. He tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to Martavis Bryant on the following drive, and then opened the second half with the picture perfect pass to Le'Veon Bell on a wheel route that beat Smith for a 19-yard touchdown.
That brought the Steelers' deficit to seven, but when the defense forced two consecutive punts, and Robert Golden even blocked one, their offense failed to score on back-to-back drives. Roethlisberger would then throw a 43-yard bomb to Antonio Brown for his second touchdown catch of the game and later score by smartly lobbing the ball backward to Bell after scrambling for a yard and watching his halfback score.
Asked if he thought 42 would have been enough to win, Roethlisberger answered, "It doesn’t matter when you give them 14 more. That’s on me. I’ll take full blame for those points and that loss because you can’t put your defense in that situation."
Asked if he felt the team underachieved after a 13-3 regular season: "Yeah, obviously. If you don’t win the Super Bowl, you’ve underachieved, right? Because that's always our goal. It wasn’t our day. It wasn’t our year. I will give praise to the man upstairs, to God, not only in victory, but in defeat, because what an awesome season it has been. We fell short, obviously, because we don’t win it all. It’s been a lot of fun with these guys."
Asked if it was a hollow feeling to have the game end on his touchdown pass that couldn't have made a difference: "You know, the way I look at that is that nobody quit. And literally until the last second of the game, nobody stopped, nobody quit, nobody gave up. That’s what makes me proud of this team. And young guys and the linemen. Having to block over and over and over and working down the field knowing that if you score a touchdown there at the end, it’s basically irrelevant. But nobody quit. I think that speaks volumes for who this team is."
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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