PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a victory Tuesday in Pittsburgh after Ben Roethlisberger took the field for one last time at Heinz Field.
It was an emotional night at Heinz Field on Monday night as Steeler Nation gathered for Roethlisberger’s last appearance in front of the home fans.
Just about this time last year, everyone was wondering if Big Ben was going to hang it up following the Steelers’ devastating playoff loss to Cleveland. In the end, Roethlisberger came back for one last run.
The season certainly hasn’t gone the way the Steelers wanted, but Monday night was one game to put all of that aside — and give Big Ben and Steelers fans a chance to celebrate his career with the black and gold.
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Earlier in the week, Roethlisberger said this was likely going to be his last start at Heinz Field in front of the home fans.
Hours before the game, fans were arriving and Heinz Field was buzzing as the Steelers faithful recognized what it meant to see Ben one more time at home.
Once again, the Steelers played the Cleveland Browns and it was an old-fashioned AFC North divisional battle.
The game remained close for all four quarters until the Steelers put it away late, winning the contest 26-14 — and that’s when the emotions hit. Roethlisberger took one more knee to seal the win. Once again, there were tears, but this time, they were tears of joy.
“That was a game unlike any other game in terms of atmosphere that I’ve seen in my 15 years,” head Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
After his on-field interview at the end of the game, Roethlisberger then took time to soak it all in.
— KDKA (@KDKA) January 4, 2022
“The end of it, having a chance to go back out, so thankful for the fans,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “There’s no place like it.”
The fans stayed well after the final whistle to cheer on the man who led their team for almost two decades.
Big Ben high-fived fans while taking a victory lap around Heinz Field before meeting his family near the tunnel.
Nothing like sharing these special moments with the family. 👏👏👏pic.twitter.com/xDFBvGU8JE
— Bob Pompeani (@KDPomp) January 4, 2022
Hours after the game, Steelers fans were still riding an emotional high Tuesday.
“It was a perfect storybook ending to a fantastic career, a guy who gave his all to this city and this team. It was awesome,” Dominic Ferro said.
He was one of the thousands of fans cheering on the man who wore the black and gold for 18 seasons. After a final kneel down and a Steelers win, the emotions poured out around the stadium.
“We saw a lot of fans crying,” Ferro said. “Personally I didn’t cry. It was certainly emotional at times. Seeing Ben not wanting to leave the field, it really pulled at your heartstrings.”
“It was awesome man. He had me in tears. It was so emotional. They really sent him off right,” fan Carol Morgan said.
On Tuesday fans were still feeling the emotions. They thanked Ben for his efforts in bringing two Super Bowl titles to the city during his career.
“He played for us. He played for all of Pittsburgh,” fan Santos Pastor said.
The Steelers faithful will always remember his ability to shrug off tacklers and seem to make the impossible happen. After two decades, it appears Ben will be moving on, with as Chuck Noll would say “his life’s work.”
“Nobody can replace him, Ben Roethlisberger. He was one of the best,” Santos said.
So what do the Steelers need to do after Ben retires?
“I’d like to see them get Aaron Rodgers maybe. Maybe get someone in the first round and let them learn from this veteran,” Ferro said.
“They need to get that o-line together. We could use a couple more wide receivers. And a couple people on defense,” Morgan said.
The story for Big Ben isn’t done quite yet. Roethlisberger still has at least one last game for the Steelers this coming Sunday in Baltimore against the Ravens, and if several pieces fall into places, he could be playing in the playoffs.
Stay with KDKA for more on this developing story and in our later newscasts.