MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Thus, the Ben Roethlisberger era has apparently come to an end, although no official announcement has yet been made.

And just like that, 18 seasons of sustained excellence on the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers is over. Kaput. Finito. Because even if Big Ben changes his mind – as he has only led us to believe he is retiring – and comes back for another season to play, it won’t be with the Steelers. They’ve had enough. They had enough long ago.

If Roethlisberger won’t move along? The Steelers definitely will.

Big Ben, you see, isn’t really a big hit within the friendly confines of Rooneyville, no matter how touching his teary performance in discussing the wonderfulness of the Rooney family on Sunday night may have seemed to be after he had quarterbacked his final game for the Steelers – a 42-21 first-round playoff loss in Kansas City.

The guy was a great quarterback – not so much now, because he’s almost 40; which, granted, I’d love to be 40 again, but not to play NFL quarterback – but he is not a nice person. And it seems he rarely has been.

Be that as it may, the NFL has chosen to ignore it, and then the Steelers followed suit in ignoring the two sexual assault accusations against him in successive years, 2009 and 2010, although they did hand down a very stern six-game suspension after the second one, which, of course, he got off early on for … wait for it … good behavior?

But, he passed for over 64,000 yards, completed 5,440 passes, passed for over 400 touchdowns and the Steelers won two Super Bowls and went to another one.

He was a tough player and, in the Tom Brady age of Protect the Quarterback, none of those rules to protect the quarterback seemed to apply to him. He took a beating on the field, almost to the end. Maybe that was because nobody in the league liked him as he gave every indication he thought of himself through most of his career to be the entitled quarterback, at least off the field.

And with the way he was treated by the league, by the media and by the Steelers (remember, Image is Everything) in the way they all came to ignore oh, that, he was the entitled quarterback.

This whole contrived farewell the past couple of weeks was never more laughable than when Bill Cowher, Roethlisberger’s first professional head coach, interviewed him for last weekend’s pre-game show on CBS. So touching. So nostalgic. Such bull …

Cowher didn’t even want to draft Roethlisberger. He and director of football operations at the time, Kevin Colbert, wanted to draft a guard out of Arkansas. But owner Dan Rooney stepped in and said he seemed to recall the last time the Steelers drafted a quarterback in the first round, they went on to win four Super Bowls.

So, the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger with the 11th pick of the 2004 draft, and they won two Super Bowls.

(By the way, not even a Steelers fan here, but Terry Bradshaw is the most underrated quarterback in NFL history … THE MAN WON FOUR SUPER BOWLS and idiots still say he is stupid.)

So good luck to Big Ben in retirement – unless he changes his mind and takes a bundle of sawed-off Danny Snyder’s money and ends up playing for the soon to be renamed and rebranded Washington Football Team (more on them later this week). He was a great, great football player – a great, great quarterback, even in today’s flag football day and age. He was a throwback. He was tough. He was a winner. But pardon some of us for not having too many warm and fuzzies about him as a person.

The Steelers will move on; they always do. They have great ownership (for this racket of a TV show), they have a great organization, the most loyal fans in the world; they have a great, unappreciated head coach (who should not be unappreciated); they have a pretty damn good defense and they have the makings of a very good running game and some fine receivers, if they can ever make a play in a big game.

The Steelers will find a quarterback, more than likely a mobile one. The Steelers will move on, and the Steelers will win again relatively soon.

Ben Roethlisberger is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He will not be the first self-absorbed, not-nice person to have a bust in Canton, Ohio. Far from it.

Good riddance to him. Everybody will be just fine.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT