By Colin Dunlap

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – I heard what Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was saying. I heard it loud and clear.

Did you?

If you didn’t, that’s on you. Because, to me at least, it was clear as clear could be.

First, what Roethlisberger said — in quote form — just a few moments after the Steelers were inexplicably and stunningly bounced out of the playoffs by Jacksonville on Sunday:

“I definitely have a desire to play football,” he said. “I love this game. I love these guys. It’s tough, it stings, you hate to lose at home. I feel bad because I feel like I let the fans down, let my teammates down and I don’t know about contracts and who is coming back, but I know who the guys up front are, and that makes it good for me. I look forward to next year with those guys.”

That’s exactly what Big Ben said.

Know what he was doing by saying that? Making a preemptive, proactive statement that pretty much said (and this is my opinion here) “I ain’t going anywhere and they aren’t going to fire me, so you can go ahead and get rid of Todd Haley now.”

To me, it was loud and clear.

Ben was getting ahead of the drama and making it known he will be around in an attempt to force the Steelers’ hand on not extending Haley another contract.

You see, in the aftermath of last season, Roethlisberger forced his own drama by stringing out his decision to come back all the way through deep into the off-season. The quarterback sent a stunner through media and fan circles when he went on his show on 93.7 The Fan and pronounced that he didn’t have a pronouncement; that he wasn’t sure of his future. He hinted at retirement and talked of his life after football and how his wife would weigh prominently into the decision to play moving forward.

Eventually, Big Ben decided to come back and play this season. But, that too came with a qualifier. In explaining his decision to play in 2017, Roethlisberger carefully illuminated how at this stage of his career every year is meticulously evaluated at season’s end and nothing is a sure bet. He went on to say that at the end of each season, he would sit with his family and take a long look at things before deciding to press on and play the next season.

On Sunday, when this season wrapped up, that evaluation process lasted all of about 20 minutes.

He left the field, he went to a media conference and it was there he told everyone he’d be back.

Some heavy thought, huh?

To me it was oh-so clear. Big Ben was planting his flag and planting it deeply as the man in charge of the offense and telling Steelers brass that they can do away with Todd Haley.

It doesn’t seem to be much of a secret (see: Quarterback Sneak issue) that Ben and Haley aren’t on the same page with myriad things. It feels like there might not be a world where the two can coexist any longer.

That said, the Steelers have a decision to make with Haley, as his contract has expired. If Roethlisberger were to retire, it might make sense to keep the offensive coordinator around. It was glaringly clear after Sunday’s game that Big Ben didn’t want to string out any drama about the issue; he wanted to let the world know.

To me, the message was simple. It was “I’m coming back, so you can get rid of Todd Haley now.” ​