Kovacevic: Ben will never quit on Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger isn't going anywhere.
He'll stay with the Steelers for as long as they'll have him, and that's for the foreseeable future, well beyond the expiration of his current contract in two years. He'll then retire with the team, and he and his family will make their permanent home in Pittsburgh.
I believe that.
Just as I believe that the key to understanding why is to tune out all the noise.
All of it.
To start, discard the ridiculous report that the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport put out Sunday that Roethlisberger and the team might be planning — lock on those last three words to judge newsworthiness — to part ways at season's end. The report's sources characterized the feelings of a player and the team, yet the report itself never attributes anything to Roethlisberger, his agent Ryan Tollner or Art Rooney II.
All those guys will do is, you know, decide everything.
But go further. Don't listen, either, to the strongly worded denials from Roethlisberger or Tollner or Rooney during and after the Steelers' 23-10 victory over the Bills at Heinz Field.
Turn all of the volume down to zero.
Instead, go with your eyes.
Look at what Roethlisberger has done, at his actions, even in this most miserable of seasons, and ask if this individual, as the report charges, wants out.
Ramon Foster, as often happens, put it best: “That guy's no quitter, and you're seeing that now more than ever.”
I'll emphatically second that: I've never been more impressed by Roethlisberger and, as a result, I've never been more convinced of his commitment to the Steelers.
But don't take my word for it. Go inside the huddle. Go ask the men who know him far better than any of us.
Ask left tackle Kelvin Beachum about his encounter with Roethlisberger on the sideline during the final seconds Sunday, not long after Beachum allowed a defender a blindside sack.
“I asked Ben, ‘How's your body?' And he just said he was OK but that we have to do better,” Beachum recalled. “He holds us accountable, but he doesn't cuss us out, and he never gets discouraged. Never. There's frustration, but he just wants to keep going.”
Roethlisberger, for the record, has been sacked 35 times behind this patchwork line — four more Sunday, plus three other hits — and his next public complaint will be the first. His next missed snap will be the first, too.
Ask Jerricho Cotchery how Roethlisberger handles similar issues with his wide receivers.
“Never heard the first complaint,” Cotchery said. “This man gets hit, and all he does is line up for the next play. Mentally, I don't think there are too many NFL players at any position who can match him. He's that tough.”
That sound like a quitter to you, someone scrambling for a parachute?
Scouting out his NFL paradise?
Look, it's easy when things are going well. When Roethlisberger entered the NFL, he went 15-1, won a Super Bowl right away and was living … well, too large at times. It all came so effortlessly.
He's matured a ton since then. He's in control of his life and, to a great extent, his career. But this, no doubt, is the greatest challenge of that career. And trust me, based on talks we've had on this topic, he views this in exactly that way: He wants to be that guy who leads the Steelers back. He wants to be that Mario Lemieux to the Penguins, that Andrew McCutchen to the Pirates, that player who carries himself with pride through the hard times with an aim of being rewarded at the end.
That's his next goal, not some escape.
The Steelers and the Rooney family stood by Roethlisberger once, and he has stood by them. There's nothing at all complicated here.
Doesn't mean he's eager to be part of some long-term rebuilding. Nor that he's done counting his Super Bowl rings against those of Tom Brady and others. He wants to win and win now.
When I asked Sunday if he felt these Steelers can add to that ring total with him, he didn't hesitate: “Very.”
In fact, he didn't hesitate with any of his replies in angrily rejecting the NFL Network report as “B.S.” and “totally false” and “made up.” And he became even more impassioned when talking about the foundation of it: “To me, it's about giving everything I have to this organization and this fan base. That's what I'm going to do. I'm not quitting on anything, this season, this team or these fans. I'm going to give everything I have. This is home.”
Sure, right up until the media session was done and Benjamin Todd Jr., his 1-year-old son sporting a little No. 7 jersey, leaped into his arms. And they headed home.