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.
Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp
There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.
“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”
Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.
NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North
It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.
But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.
NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.
“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 25, 2021
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”
Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.
NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.
Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.
“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”
Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.
While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.
Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.
Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.
Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.
After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.
While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.