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Rossi: Roethlisberger staging big comeback

| Friday, July 25, 2014, 10:53 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during OTA practice Wednesday, June 11, 2014 on the South Side.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during OTA practice Wednesday, June 11, 2014 on the South Side.

We're watching another comeback by Ben Roethlisberger. This one, though, almost nobody thought was possible.

Basically what happened Friday before players reported to training camp was Steelers president Art Rooney II put out word that his franchise quarterback would not receive a contract extension this season — but that Roethlisberger all but is guaranteed to finish his career with the only NFL team he has known.

“I think Ben understands our intentions and our commitment to getting his contract done next offseason,” Rooney said in a statement.

There is no way Rooney would release that statement without the approval of Roethlisberger and his representatives. There is no way the Steelers would have final say right now on this matter — likely the last contract for the second-greatest quarterback in franchise history — without Roethlisberger wanting Rooney to quell possible controversy.

There is no way Roethlisberger didn't end his June chat with Rooney knowing he would be taken care of by the Steelers, even barring an injury this season.

Actually, the Steelers have taken care of Roethlisberger. By playing out this season, he will have collected nearly $90 million of the $100 million pledged to him on his second contract.

The Steelers also have taken care of Roethlisberger in ways he appears to appreciate, and that might be the biggest reason he trusts the Rooney family to send him out properly.

He's still their quarterback, right? That was hardly a lock four years ago. Then, Roethlisberger arrived at camp looking at a possible six-game suspension because of a second round of sexual-assault allegations. Word that Dan Rooney was furious — to the point of wanting Roethlisberger out of the Steelers family — wasn't exactly a whisper.

Six games were cut to four, and Roethlisberger led the Steelers to their third Super Bowl under his tenure. They lost, but he started to rack up some more important wins.

Now a husband and father of two children, Roethlisberger is 32 and entering his 11th season. This is the fourth quarter of a career that could place him in elite company.

Already one of only three quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls with two different coaches, Roethlisberger can set up the Steelers for a few more Super runs by resisting the temptation to get greedy when contract negotiations resume next offseason.

Greed can be costly. It can ruin something special.

Roethlisberger has spent the past three years rebuilding a reputation that was wrecked. He hasn't been perfect, as was evident by the rocky start of his relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but he's been pretty good.

Just look at him.

Roethlisberger arrived at camp in the best shape of his career. He's not the first to do so, but Roethlisberger looks like he has overhauled everything, especially eating and workout habits.

When was the last time Roethlisberger didn't accept the burden of typically insane expectations for the Steelers? When was the last time he tossed a teammate or assistant coach under the bus? When was the last time somebody said something bad about his actions on or off the field?

When was the last time he wasn't what Pittsburghers expect of a Steeler?

Unless we've been watching an amazingly scripted stage play the past three years, Roethlisberger has grown into a humble, hard-working leader of this proud franchise. All that's left to do is for him to give a hometown discount on his last contract.

If he does, the Steelers are obligated to spend for the weapons he needs to seek Super Bowls instead of denying him an opportunity to rediscover greatness after the early glory days.

Roethlisberger is going to retire as a Steeler. He may retire as the Steeler of his generation or a Steeler for any generation.

The quarterback with 29 winning drives in the fourth quarter has the ball. We're watching a career-defining comeback.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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