While it’ll be a quote that will be easy to blast Ben Roethlisberger over, he made a big admission about his transition to retirement and watching someone else play quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the latest episode of his Footbahlin podcast, this week with guest Kenny Pickett, Roethlisberger admitted he initially struggled over seeing Pickett take over and become the next franchise player. And at first, part of him hoped that Pickett would not play well.
“I’ll be completely honest,” Roethlisberger said. “And I’ll be super transparent here and I’m gonna get blasted. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I mean, who cares at this point? I wouldn’t say that I wanted Kenny to necessarily fail, but when someone comes to replace you and I still feel like I had it. Like, I hope he doesn’t come ball-out, because then it’s like, ‘Ben, who?’”
It’s a quote that will likely gain plenty of attention locally and nationally over the coming days, especially at a point in the NFL calendar where things are slow. Roethlisberger’s personality has been met by mixed reviews. Some founded based on the immaturity and recklessness he showed early in his career and his alpha mentality that helped lead to his success. Roethlisberger made waves in 2018 after critiquing the Steelers’ selection of QB Mason Rudolph, then viewed as his potential replacement, and his comments in a radio interview was the catalyst in the blowup between Antonio Brown and the Steelers. Roethlisberger later apologized for those comments, too.
But Roethlisberger is saying what a lot of players are likely thinking. It’s hard to see someone else take your place after doing a job for nearly two decades. His comments are another indication that Roethlisberger didn’t completely retire on his own accord either but the Steelers pushed him to hang up his cleats, eager to move on and find their quarterback of the future. Initially, it was hard for Roethlisberger to watch Pickett play.
“Early on, I didn’t want him to succeed because they followed me up. I didn’t want it to happen. I think that’s probably the selfishness of me and I feel bad for it.”
Roethlisberger apologized to Pickett for feeling that way. And after putting that selfishness aside, he grew to enjoy watching Pickett play as the Steelers righted the ship the backhalf of the season, going 7-2 and nearly making the playoffs.
“As you started playing, I found myself rooting more and more for you. You know what I’m saying? We sat down here and watched games and we were high-fiving, going nuts when you were leading the team and doing things.”
Pickett took over as the team’s quarterback mid-way through Week Four before being named the starter Week Five. After taking his lumps initially, Pickett and the offense found momentum down the stretch. Pickett was asked to do less but put together two great drives to beat the Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens in back-to-back weeks. He and the team grew up over these final few months and perhaps seeing the team succeed without him gave Roethlisberger some peace.
With the team now Pickett’s, Roethlisberger can reflect and see the Steelers are better off for drafting him.
“I apologized to you for not knowing how good he was gonna be…I think you’re the future of this team. I really do. And I think the fans should be lucky. They are lucky they got you.”
You can hear the entire conversation between Roethlisberger and Pickett below. It’s a conversation well worth your time.