Bill Cowher Reveals Expectations For Ben Roethlisberger's 18th Season

By Jason Hall

July 14, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Giants
Photo: Getty Images

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Bill Cowher has big expectations for his former starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, in what could be Roethlisberger's final NFL season.

"Consistently, year in and year out, he is a great competitor,” Cowher said Tuesday, via NateDavis of USA TODAY ahead of his upcoming Hall of Fame enshrinement. “I’m sure he’s just thriving right now on the fact that everyone thinks that he’s done, (that) the Steelers are done.

“I used to always say to people, ‘The greatest thing in sports is to do something nobody thinks you can do.’ And I think right now, Ben is just thriving on that, and he can’t wait to get out there – probably champing at the bit to prove (it). I would be very surprised if he didn’t have a great year this year.”

Roethlisberger was selected by the Steelers at No. 11 overall during the 2004 NFL Draft, which coincided with Cowher's final three seasons and a victory in Super Bowl XL during their second season together.

The former Miami (Ohio) standout replaced injured former starter Tommy Maddox in Week 3 of his rookie season and led the Steelers to a 13-0 record in his first 13 regular season starts, as well as a playoff victory over the New York Jets, before being eliminated by the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

“He went from managing the game to winning games, and I was just amazed at – not just with his athleticism and his size, but his feel for the game,” Cowher said. “He could see the field better than anybody. He got comfortable outside the pocket. Not afraid to make throws. It was never too big for him.”

Roethlisberger agreed to take a pay cut in order to help out the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

During a media session earlier last month, the 39-year-old quarterback said he suggested taking a $5 million pay reduction in order to help the Steelers free up $15 million in cap space.

"I told them I want to help the team out however we can," Roethlisberger said via Sports Illustrated. "I went to them and told them I'll do whatever I could to help the team sign the guys that are going to help us win football games. I've been extremely blessed to play this game a long time. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come back. I knew we had a great defense and amazing weapons on offense.
"I wanted to come back and be part of a special football team, one that everyone is overlooking, which is kind of cool, too. In order to help get the guys, I felt it was necessary to do that."

The Steelers were able to re-sign Zach Banner, Cameron Sutton, Tyson Alualu and Juju Smith-Schuster, Roethlisberger's primary wide receiver, as well as several additional free agents with the additional cap space.

"I felt it was the right thing to do if I wanted to play," Roethlisberger said. "I felt relatively healthy, all things considered at the end of the season. It just felt like I had more in the tank and felt disappointed with the way the season ended, obviously, and I hated to go out that way."

Roethlisberger and the Steelers agreed on a new contract in March for the 2021 season, which will be his 18th with the franchise after being selected No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Cowher, who will be presented by Steelers owner Art Rooney II during his Hall of Fame enshrinement on August 7, spent his entire head coaching career with the Steelers from 1992-2006 after stints as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns (1985-88) and Kansas City Chiefs (1989-91.) The Allegheny County native replaced legendary coach Chuck Noll and led his hometown team to a 149-90-1 record, which included a 12-9 postseason record and Super Bowl championship in 2005.

Cowher was also the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year during his first season with the franchise, a two-time Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year (1992, 2004) and enshrined to the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

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