Ben Roethlisberger is set to return for his 18th season with the Pittsburgh Steelers this fall, though questions regarding the veteran passer's productivity and durability raise the possibility that it could be his last campaign.
Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, his former teammate, doesn't believe that will be the case.
"I don't get a sense of that," Bettis told "The Jake Asman Show" on SportsMap Radio. "I think Ben - under the right circumstances, if they can provide a running game and support - then I think you can see him another year or another two years. I think he still has the ability to throw the football down the football field.
"You saw in those 11 games when they were undefeated that he did a good job of getting the football to the receiver and letting them make plays."
The 39-year-old Roethlisberger helped lead the Steelers to an AFC North title behind 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 15 games. It was a bounce-back campaign after he missed all but two games of the 2019 season due to an elbow injury. Pittsburgh passed for 250 yards per game but finished 30th with 6.3 yards per attempt.
The quarterback restructured his contract this offseason to provide the Steelers with some salary-cap wiggle room in 2021. Roethlisberger agreed to a $5-million pay cut in a deal that features four voidable years and expires after next season.
While Bettis believes Roethlisberger can still make the same throws he did during his prime, he said it would require a decrease in pass attempts to prolong Roethlisberger's career.
"If you ask him to throw the football 20-25 times, I think he can do that for another two years," Bettis said. "But if you're asking him to throw the football for 40 times a game, then yes, this will probably be his last year. Because physically, I don't think him at that age is going to be able to do that consistently for 17 weeks and then ask him to do it for a second year."
Bettis also suggested that improving a Steelers rushing attack that finished last in the league in rushing yards and yards per carry would aid Roethlisberger's career longevity. The Hall of Famer was pleased with Pittsburgh drafting Alabama tailback Najee Harris in the first round.
"You know what, I wasn't surprised," Bettis said. "I thought that that was definitely an area of need and they addressed it in a very, very big way. I thought Najee Harris is the best running back in the country and I thought, you know, for the Steelers to be able to get him where they were drafting at was a steal. So, I think he's going to have a bright future and I'm excited."
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