After the Steelers final game of the 2020 season, it sure looked like Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey were ready to ride off into the sunset together.
Following the team’s shocking Wild Card Round loss to the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field, Pouncey and Roethlisberger spent a significant amount of time sitting on the Pittsburgh bench, taking in the moment.
Teammates such as Vance McDonald, who has since retired, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is all but assured of leaving via free agency, came over to commiserate with the duo before they headed off the field.
Finally, it was just Pouncey and Roethlisberger, and the two walked off the field together for the final time as teammates.
Last two off the field, walking off together.
Feels pretty symbolic. pic.twitter.com/E70eqEjKHE
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) January 11, 2021
On Friday, Pouncey officially announced his retirement, ending a month of speculation.
“I love that guy,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “He is one of the best competitors and teammates I’ve ever had. It’s been so much fun to share a football field with him. I hate that it ended the way it did. I just wanted to apologize to him that I wanted to win it for him.”
In the past, Pouncey and Roethlisberger had said that they wanted to go out together. Roethlisberger has not made an official announcement about his plans for 2021, but the Steelers say he intends to return. The sides need to do some work to find an agreement on reducing Roethlisberger’s salary, which is currently slated to be north of $41 million.
“This loss is fresh,” he said after the loss. “It’s just sitting on our hearts and our minds right now. It will for a while. … It’s going to start between me and God, a lot of praying. A lot of talking with my family, discussions, decisions. I still have a year left on my contract. I hope the Steelers want me back, if that’s the way we go. There will be a lot of discussions.”
The two sides had reportedly been set to get together this week, but according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger and the Steelers have not yet met.
“I’m still processing him retiring,” Roethlisberger said to Dulac. “That’s hard for me.”
Roethlisberger texted with Pouncey Thursday night and said "I didn’t feel right trying to talk him out of it. I'm still processing him retiring. That’s hard for me." Roethlisberger still has not met with Steelers about what they want to do.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) February 12, 2021
The Steelers remain well over the projected 2021 salary cap, even after Pouncey’s retirement. Roethlisberger’s situation appears likely to be the next shoe to drop. Will he follow his friend into retirement or find a way to make one more run with the Steelers? Guess we’ll find out soon.