Last Sunday, Steeler Nation held their breath as kicker Chris Boswell kicked the game-winning field goal against the Baltimore Ravens; a win that would boost the Steelers to 9-7-1 on the year and ultimately send them to the playoffs. Though there is no denying the importance of the game for the franchise’s playoff hopes, this Week 18 game meant more to both Steelers’ fans and players alike. This 16-13 OT thriller is likely to be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last regular season game in the black and gold, and there is no better way than to go out. After 18 seasons and 248 games in the NFL, Roethlisberger has paved a Hall of Fame career for himself. This season alone, Big Ben has battled through injury, media hate, and team setbacks to go out on a high note, and now the Pittsburgh Steelers legend is playing with house money.
A long road home: Roethlisberger’s last game at Heinz field
After starting the season 1-3, the 2021 Steelers have found themselves fighting an uphill battle all season long. Embodying the city itself, Pittsburgh’s beloved football team never quit on the season and fought their way back into playoff contention. Just as in 2020, the media continued to crucify the Steelers and their 39-year-old quarterback week in and week out. Some of the press was justified; after all, the Steelers did not always look outstanding this season. Yet one thing remained consistent: Ben never quit on his team, and they never quit on him. The Steelers would fight back into the playoff race multiple times, usually hovering around .500, but with two games left in the regular season, things did not seem to be looking up in the Steel City.
Week 17 would see the 7-8 Cleveland Browns and the 7-7-1 Steelers battle it out in a classic divisional rivalry game. Both teams knew what to expect, after all, all AFC North games tend to follow the same script of being hard-hitting bloodbaths, but the stakes were even higher this time. This would be Ben Roethlisberger’s final game at Heinz Field and the final showdown against the Cleveland Browns (whom he is 26-3-1 against all-time).
With playoff hopes on the line and a legacy to protect, the Steelers would blow past the Browns with a 26-14 win. In his postgame interview, the Steelers legend himself could hardly keep it together as the pure emotion of his last game in Pittsburgh began to take over. Roethlisberger’s final home game felt as if it were written into a movie script, all the way down to his final snap awarded to him by the Steelers’ defense which created a turnover and allowed the future Hall of Famer to take one final knee in front of Steeler Nation.
Ravens week: Big Ben’s final showdown against the purple and black
After a long and torturous season, the Steelers’ first ever 17th regular season game rolled around. The roster knew what was at stake, sitting at 8-7-1 and a series of chaotic events away from the playoffs. Not only was this likely Roethlisberger’s last career football game, but it was also for a shot at the playoffs and against the hated division rival, Baltimore Ravens. As the game went on, it slowly turned into a defensive brawl. The 8-8 Ravens, who were also playing for a shot at the playoffs, wanted to see Ben Roethlisberger off with a loss. The Steelers’ defense, led by NFL single-season sack record-holder, TJ Watt had other plans.
Following a Ravens’ field goal which knotted the game at 13-13, the game remained deadlocked, which forced overtime. The Steelers were the visiting team; they were granted the first choice in the overtime coin toss, and called “heads.” The coin landed tails, giving the Ravens the ball. The Steelers’ defense stood firm nonetheless and forced Baltimore to give the ball back to Ben for one last drive, a drive that would only pad Roethlisberger’s outstanding legacy in the black and gold. Heading into the game, Roethlisberger had led 52 fourth quarter comebacks in his career. The only quarterbacks with more fourth quarter comebacks were Drew Brees (53), Tom Brady (53), and Payton Manning (54). Roethlisberger was ready to lead his team to victory one last time with everything on the line.
Roethlisberger would take his team 65 yards down the field in overtime, converting on three straight 3rd and 4th down attempts, all from a distance. Roethlisberger and the Steelers would inch closer. Finally, the Steelers felt close enough to send in kicker Chris Boswell with just under two minutes in the game. As Steeler Nation held their breath, Boswell kept a cool head and booted the game-winner straight through the uprights from 36 yards out, handing Roethlisberger his 53rd game-winning drive and sending the Steelers to the playoffs. In his postgame interview, Roethlisberger was informed that the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts, meaning as long as the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers didn’t tie (they didn’t), Pittsburgh would be headed to the playoffs for one last ride with Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger’s storybook ending has already been written for many, including myself, because of his last two games with the Steelers. Few expected the Steelers to make the playoffs for most of this season, and many didn’t even see the team finishing above .500. Yet here they are, the 7th seed in the playoffs searching for the franchise’s 7th ring behind their legendary quarterback who wears number seven. The perfect ending to Roethlisberger’s career has already happened; now he gets one last chance at a ring, playing with nothing but house money.
Do you think Ben’s final two games have been the perfect ending to his remarkable career? Let us know in the comments below!