With concussions a 'factor,' Roethlisberger mulls career future
Four months after committing to play a 14th NFL season, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is weighing information that will help determine whether he suits up beyond 2017.
Roethlisberger said Friday during an interview with the Tribune-Review that he is familiar with “broad strokes” of a recent study that diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players because of repeated blows to the head. Seven of the players studied were quarterbacks.
Roethlisberger, 35, found the study “alarming” and said he will include it in his decision next offseason about whether to return for a 15th season.
“Of course,” Roethlisberger said. “I want to play catch with my kids. I want to know my kids' names. As much as I want my kids to remember what I did and watch me play the game, I also want to remember them when I'm 70 years old.”
Renowned neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee published her findings this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association after examining brains of 202 deceased football players, more than half of whom played in the NFL.
Roethlisberger has had multiple concussions during his career, the most recent occurring in a 2015 game in Seattle when he reported his head injury.
“It's a factor,” Roethlisberger said of the CTE study. “I think, my wife, it was more of a factor for her. You have to take it into consideration. That's why I've always been forthright and honest about my concussions and being hit in the head.
“This shows there's nothing to mess with. If you want to mess with your brain, you can't put a new one in. You can't have a brain transplant. If you want to mess with your brain, go ahead. I'm not going to. I love my family and kids.
“This (study) is definitely some real-life stuff.”
Roethlisberger said he switched helmets several times in his career as technology evolved. He will change this season to a helmet that removes all of the air and is scanned to fit Roethlisberger's head.
“The pad fits snug on the head,” he said. “It looks like the old one, but it will be different on the inside.”
Roethlisberger said he seriously considered retiring in the offseason. He raised the issue on his weekly 93.7 FM radio show two days after the Steelers lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. He didn't announce his return for another season until April.
“People who know me know I don't say things just to say them,” he said. “If I say something, I mean it. It had nothing to do with the frustrations of losing the AFC championship game. It was real talk. It was time to reflect and think.
“Family is the most important thing to me. As much as I love this game, family is always going to be more important. Once I talked to them and discussed it with them, I'm now 110 percent committed to football, and fans are going to get every ounce of me this season.”
Other topics address by Roethlisberger on Friday:
• He said he sent two text messages to running back Le'Veon Bell in the days leading into training camp but never got a response. Bell did not report because he has not signed his $12.12 million franchise tender.
“Obviously, we'd like him to be here because we think he's the best running back in the game,” Roethlisberger said. “He's going to do what's best for him first.”
• Roethlisberger expects to sit down and talk to suspended wide receiver Martavis Bryant in the next day or two. Roethlisberger thought it might happen Thursday, but then the NFL announced Bryant cannot practice with the Steelers until he is fully reinstated by the league.
“He's dealing with some things now,” Roethlisberger said. “When the time is right, it will happen, I'm sure.”
Two weeks ago, Bryant told ESPN he “didn't agree with how (Roethlisberger) did it” when the quarterback criticized the wide receiver after the suspension was announced in March 2016.
Roethlisberger said Bryant texted him after the ESPN report was published. Bryant inferred his comments were taken out of context.
“Listen, I know how the media can turn things and want to make a big story, especially when nothing is going on in the NFL world,” Roethlisberger said. “So that's why he reached out to me and said he'd love to talk. I said I was all for it. I think the outside world made a way bigger deal than it is.”
• He has no plans to be included in end-zone celebrations as a result of the new rule that has loosened restrictions on how players can celebrate.
“I don't even know what the new rule is, I don't care about the new rule,” he said. “I'll just do what I always do. I'm going to let (Antonio Brown) do all the dancing or whatever you're allowed to do.”