On the eve of perhaps his final game in the NFL, Ben Roethlisberger received a text from his dad asking how he was doing.
Roethlisberger said he felt fine and that he didn’t feel like Sunday’s game against the Ravens was going to be the end of his career.
By the time he walked off the field at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Roethlisberger had to have more confidence than ever that he was not yet done. He had led Pittsburgh to a 16-13 comeback win in overtime against the Ravens to end the regular season, and with some help from the Colts and pending the outcome of Sunday’s game between the Chargers and Raiders, he and the Steelers could be headed back to the postseason.
“Last week was so much more emotional, it took it all out and it just made me feel like, ‘Let’s go play,” Roethlisberger said after Sunday’s win. “At no point during this game did I think, ‘Man, this is it. It’s almost over.’ It just didn’t feel like that and I’m glad I didn’t have those feelings.”
Rumors have swirled all season that the 2021 campaign would be Roethlisberger’s last in the NFL, and his emotional final game at Heinz Field in Week 17 seemed to confirm that. The 18-year veteran still hasn’t confirmed that he is indeed hanging up his cleats at the end of the season, but if he is, in fact, done, it sounds as if he won’t miss playing close games with the Ravens.
“I told a lot of those guys I’m not going to miss playing them,” Roethlisberger said of the Ravens. “Football is already a very violent game. But you know playing these guys has always been one where you wake up on Monday morning, whatever the next day is and you’re hurt. And it’s never dirty. It’s just good, old-fashioned football.”
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It seemed for a while Sunday that Roethlisberger might not get a chance at making the playoffs. The Pittsburgh offense had been held to just two field goals through the first three quarters as Baltimore took a 10-6 lead. But Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Claypool with 2:54 left in regulation to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead.
The Ravens responded with a field goal to send the game to overtime. After Baltimore couldn’t score on its opening drive in the extra period, Roethlisberger marched Pittsburgh 65 yards to set up Chris Boswell for a game-winning 36-yard field goal.
The Steelers entered Sunday’s contest at 8-7-1 and needed a lot of help to make the playoffs for the second straight season. They not only needed to beat Baltimore, but they needed the Jaguars to beat the Colts and for the Chargers or Raiders to beat the other on “Sunday Night Football.”
Pittsburgh watched throughout its game as the scoreboard in Baltimore reflected the chaos going on in Jacksonville that ended with the holders of the 2022 No. 1 overall draft selection ending the Colts’ playoff hopes with a 26-11 win.
The only thing the Steelers needed after that was for the Chargers and Raiders to avoid a tie. Were one of those teams to win, the Steelers would enter the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the AFC and head to Kansas City for a matchup against the No. 2-seed Chiefs.
The Raiders won 35-32 with no time remaining in overtime of a wild “Sunday Night Football” game to send Pittsburgh to the postseason.
This article has been updated with the result of the Chargers-Raiders game.