Ben Roethlisberger Victorious In Likely His Final Game At Heinz Field

Ben Roethlisberger thanks the fans at Heinz Field after the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Cleveland Browns 26-14.

(Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Ben Roethlisberger thanks the fans at Heinz Field after the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Cleveland Browns 26-14.

In what was likely his final game at Heinz Field, veteran Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback ended it with a win, as Pittsburgh knocked off the Cleveland Browns, 26-14. 

While Roethlisberger has not officially announced his plans to retire after the season as of yet, it has been the general consensus that the 2021 NFL campaign would be his last, making Monday night’s divisional match against Cleveland the likely last home game of his lengthy 18-year career. 

“Everything was pretty calm and collected throughout this whole week, throughout the pregame,” Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said. “Pretty normal. Until you walked outside and felt the energy. Saw all the 7 jerseys, all the 7 signs.”

“It was truly an atmosphere that I’ve never felt here before. It was really, really special. The fans made it so amazing for him. I’m so appreciative they were able to do that for him. It was a special night.”

Big Ben went 24 for 46 attempts for 123 yards, including 34 attempts in the first half. He threw 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He set an NFL record for fewest passing yards in a single game with at least 45 pass attempts. 

“It’s funny because probably not the way you wanted it other than the win,” Roethlisberger said. “And that’s all that really matters. And that’s been the story of my career: Not always pretty, but we find a way.” 

While Ben’s numbers were not stellar by any stretch, the offense experienced a huge boost from running back Najee Harris, who had a career night with 188 rushing yards on 28 carries. His big night propelled him to break Franco Harris’ franchise rookie rushing record, set in 1972. Najee ended the night with 1,172 rushing yards on the season. He also ran for a touchdown in the final minute of the game to ice it for Pittsburgh. 

“He’s a heck of a football player,” Roethlisberger said. “Tonight, it’s like he ran possessed. Some of the things he did was just special, and he gave us that victory.”

The team also featured a star performance from the defense, which combined for 2 interceptions and 9 total sacks of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. Leading the way in the sacks department was T.J. Watt with 4, which put him only 1.5 sacks away from the all-time single-season sack record set by Michael Strahan 20 years ago. T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward also batted down multiple Mayfield pass attempts.

After Harris’ run into the endzone, it seemed as if Ben’s farewell game at home was over, but an interception by Tre Norwood sent out the offense and Roethlisberger out on the field one last time to take a knee in victory formation and end the game. After the clock hit all zeros, Big Ben stayed out on the field for over 10 minutes, saluting the more than 60,000 fans at Heinz Field as they chanted “Let’s Go Ben” and “Thank You, Ben.” 

“This is home,” Roethlisberger said afterward. “I was born in Ohio, but I live here, and I’ll always be here. These fans and this place means so much to me and my family and always will. I’ve always said they’re the best fans in all of sports, and I’ll stick by that until the day I die.”

“To see all the signs and jerseys and towels, and to hear them cheer for me coming out of the tunnel, all that stuff, I don’t know that I’ll ever put it into words. I wish I could bottle it and have it forever. But I will in [my heart] and in my mind.”

Surrounded by cameramen and photographers, Roethlisberger roamed the field, before taking a seat on the bench, much like he did with now-retired longtime Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey last season after the Steelers’ shocking 48-37 loss to the Browns last January in the postseason. This year, he sat alone on the bench. 

“Just wanted to sit down and take it in,” Roethlisberger said. “Just try and absorb every minute of this place because it’s so special, the fans are so special. I wanted to win this game more than anything for them. Obviously, we still have a bigger — we got another game. There is a slim chance [to make the playoffs], but we’ve got to keep fighting.”

The 8-7-1 Steelers do still have a chance to make the playoffs. To do so, however, they will need a lot of help. In order for Pittsburgh to make the playoffs, the Steelers need to win in Week 18 at Baltimore, need the 9-7 Indianapolis Colts to lose in an upset to the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, and lastly need the Chargers and Raiders game next week to not end in a tie. 

The win against Cleveland also secured both Ben and head coach Mike Tomlin’s streak of never having a losing season. 

After his moment on the bench, Roethlisberger was greeted by his family, who were in attendance for the game. He hugged them all and walked into the tunnel with his wife and three kids—a picturesque scene for his farewell game at Heinz Field.