First, he had a gentleman’s agreement with long-time center Maurkice Pouncey that they would retire at the same time.
Second, the Steelers were stern that he could not return without a restructured contract.
One year later, fans can breathe a sigh of relief because those scenarios were unfulfilled.
Pouncey retired at the end of the 2020 season, but Big Ben will be suiting up for an 18th season with the only team he has played for.
Ben Roethlisberger said “I’m going to be 23 years old today 🤷♂️”
— Dylan Lowe (@DylanLoweNFL) August 21, 2021
Likewise, he and the Steelers agreed to defer some of his salary to latter years to lessen his cap hit from $41 million to $25 million.
That surplus amount allowed the Steelers to retain some of their key players that will help them become AFC contenders again.
But the biggest surprise of all was Roethlisberger himself.
Not only is he returning to play, but it looks like he turned back the hands of time during his only preseason appearance before the 2021 season.
Big Ben Back To Form
It’s like the Steelers of a parallel universe played last year.
While they did have success early in the season, the short passing game was uncharacteristic of Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.
The lack of a dependable run game forced the squad to release the ball quickly because they’ve become predictable for the defense.
Roethlisberger’s recovery from an elbow injury in 2019 is a major consideration as well.
But at least for three series during the Steelers’ preseason game against the Detroit Lions, he looked like the man that led the team to two Super Bowl wins.
He finished his stint by completing eight passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns which were both caught by rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth.
It could have been three touchdown passes had Eric Ebron not dropped that bullet from the seven-time Pro Bowler.
However, what mattered most was the manner by which he tallied those numbers.
The Roethlisberger of old that came out to play and it was a delight to watch.
At 39 years old and multiple injuries later, he is still scrambling when the pocket collapses and slinging the ball downfield.
On that first touchdown pass to Freiermuth, he threw a 25-yard rocket out of the shotgun after one pump fake.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) August 22, 2021
What about that bomb to Diontae Johnson on third down?
Roethlisberger threw it from the Steelers’ 25-yard-line and Johnson caught it at the Lions’ 35.
The wide receiver from Toledo gained three more yards after the catch.
— Blitzburgh ✨ (@BlitzVideos) August 22, 2021
Likewise, Roethlisberger sniffed the Lions pass rush and was able to extend plays with his feet.
Vintage Big Ben spells danger for the rest of the league and wins for the Steelers.
He looks in game shape already and will be a threat against the Buffalo Bills on opening day.
However, the offensive line and their skill players must do their part in helping him.
Rest assured that Roethlisberger will do his best as long as he can play.
But one savage hit on him will derail their title hopes and abruptly end a Hall of Fame career.