Ben Roethlisberger experienced the rare phenomenon of spending his entire career with one team, retiring as the most prolific passer in Steelers franchise history. However, in an interview with local radio host Mark Madden, Roethlisberger revealed his unwavering commitment was put to the test when he was contacted by the 49ers who, amid a biblical wave of injuries, tried (unsuccessfully) to lure the Steelers lifer out of retirement last fall.
“Last year, there was some truth to the Niners thing. Just in the sense that they were, I think, reaching out for something, just to maybe gauge my interest,” said Roethlisberger, who ranks fifth in all-time passing yards (64,088) behind only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre. “I don’t want to sit here and say I was going or anything like that.”
With Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo both lost to season-ending injuries, the Niners reluctantly turned to seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy, who won his first seven starts before succumbing to his own injury nightmare in a conference championship loss to Philadelphia. Big Ben entertained a comeback but only briefly, determining, after deliberating with his family, that his heart would always be in Pittsburgh.
“I had conversations with my agent, my wife, my family, prayed a lot about it. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t a small part of me that was intrigued that I could still do it, prove to people I could still play,” said Roethlisberger of the possibility of playing alongside Pro Bowlers Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. “But at the end of the day, I just can’t see myself in anything other than black and gold. Even though they had a great chance, I think, to win a Super Bowl. It would have been hard for me to go try to win a Super Bowl anywhere else but here.”
Roethlisberger’s loyalty to Pittsburgh is admirable, though, at 41, it’s debatable whether he would have actually been an upgrade on Purdy, who, assuming he’s recovered by then, should open next season as the Niners’ QB1.