Steelers fans sound the apparent end of the Big Ben era

Angela Birch from Kiski Township has a message for Ben Roethlisberger.

“We will miss you,” said Birch, 48. “I hate to see you go and enjoy life with your kids and thank you so much for all you have done.”

Tonight’s game against the Cleveland Browns will likely be the last home game of Roethlisberger’s rich career. Roethlisberger publicly admitted for the first time on Thursday that he would likely retire after the end of the season.

Birch said she was a staunch supporter of Big Ben and touted her persistence as one of her positive traits.

“There are times when things aren’t going well, but that’s life,” she said. “I think for as many years as he’s been there he’s done a great job.”

For a fanbase who has spent two decades aspiring to a four-time Super Bowl quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Roethlisberger was well worth the wait.

While he ended up with just half of Bradshaw’s Super Bowl ring, Roethlisberger topped Bradshaw in all significant team passing categories.

Then again, Roethlisberger topped just about anyone who has played for a team in passing stats. He’s fifth in NFL history for passing yards (63,721), fifth for competitive passes (5,386) and eighth for touchdowns (416).

Only four quarterbacks have won more regular season games as starters (163).

Christina Osorio, 40, of Washington Township, said she was happy with Ben’s plans.

“He’s dedicated a lot of time as a quarterback and I can’t wait for him to spend more time with his family. I think he’s an amazing person, and it’s just the right time, ”said Osorio.

Osorio, a frequent attendee at training camp, said seeing Roethlisberger up close and in action was special.

“The way he interacted with the fans and the kids. I just know he has a lot of passion. I think a tribute to him is well deserved, ”said Osorio.

John Fouse, 69, of Parks Township said he would watch Monday’s game but expressed unhappiness over Roethlisberger’s final years as a quarterback.

“He should have left four years ago – with Tomlin,” Fouse said. “For the first 14 years, Ben was good, then he got lazy.”

Ron Kuhn of Greensburg is another Steelers fan who said Ben has been in football for too long.

“I think he should have quit last year. I wish he had moved on, ”said Kuhn.

However, as Rick Fabery of Greensburg sees it, Ben is far from failed.

“I think he can make it another year,” Fabery said.

Fabery said it was the Steelers offense that let Roethlisberger down.

“He can’t pass if he’s hit all the time,” Fabery said.

No one ahead of Roethlisberger in the career, achievement and winning categories has done everything for a single franchise. Roethlisberger has made it known that it means something to him.

“Eighteen years old,” Roethlisberger said last week. “Almost half of my life I have given to this city, to this team and to the fans.”

Reymond Varner, 40, of Washington Township, described Roethlisberger’s impending retirement as “the end of an era.”

“The legacy he created for my generation of Steelers fans, and he gave us two Super Bowl wins,” Varner said. “I hate to see him go. It’s a piece of my childhood that is gone. It’s hard to see a legend having to hang up.

Fox Chapel season ticket holder Scott Fox has said he will be at Monday night’s game.

Fox likened the excitement to that of Mario Lemieux’s return from retirement.

“I certainly hope we give Ben a great start to his final home game,” said Fox.

But for Greensburg’s Terrence Jackson, there’s no doubt that Monday night’s game against the Browns should be Roethlisberger’s last home game.

“He shouldn’t be coming back. Absolutely, ”Jackson said.

But what should the Steelers do without that kind of franchise quarterback on the roster?

“If they want to win, they have to spend the money” on a quarterback, Jackson said.

In the history of one of Pittsburgh’s top three professional sports teams, only Willie Stargell (21) of the Pirates has played more seasons in his career.

Bradshaw is one of four NFL quarterbacks to have won more Super Bowls as a starter; he’s one of the five with the most playoff wins. Roethlisberger began the Steelers’ Super Bowl wins after the 2005 and 2008 seasons. He also lost the Super Bowl at the end of the 2010 season; he’s 13-9 in the playoffs.

When Roethlisberger, then 22, arrived in Pittsburgh as the No. 11 pick in the 2004 draft, the Steelers were coming off a 6-10 season, their third record under 0.500 in the previous six years.

He could be leaving the franchise when he turns 40 and has never been part of a Steelers team that had a losing record.

“I’m sure you can come back to my very first press conference (and) all I said I wanna do is win,” Roethlisberger said. “And that’s what’s most important to me, and so that’s what’s going to be most important.”

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