A night Ben will never forget

You could tell from moment Ben Roethlisberger stepped on the field during pregame warmups that the night was going to be special for him. You could tell it was going to be an emotional night at Heinz Field. You could tell it was going to be an epic night.

And it didn't disappoint.

In what was most likely his last game ever at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger was showered with love from Steelers fans, and when all was said and done, following the Steelers 26-14 win over the Cleveland Browns that keeps them in the playoff hunt, he gave the love right back.

Roethlisberger received a thunderous welcome when he was introduced to the Heinz Field crowd ahead of Monday night's game, and the cheers got louder as the night went on.

When Roethlisberger went out for the coin toss as the lone captain, with fellow captains Cameron Heyward and Derek Watt stepping back allowing him to take center stage, it just gave you chills.

"Oh, I was mad at them. I wanted them to come out with me," said Roethlisberger. "I took a couple steps and I looked I knew what they were doing, so I gave them a little like, you guys.

"But this team is very special. In the locker room afterwards, them on the field, just everything. That's why I love this place, and this is home and these are my brothers and I'm so blessed.

"Not just these guys, but all the guys that I've been blessed to play with over my years."

And then, after the coin toss, the chants began.

'Let's Go, Ben, Let's Go, Ben,' fans chanted time and time again as Roethlisberger took the field, each time the chant getting louder and lasting longer.

Photos of QB Ben Roethlisberger following the Steelers 26-14 win over the Browns at Heinz Field during Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season

But nothing, honestly nothing, could top the emotion, the feel that overtook all of Heinz Field when the game ended … with Roethlisberger taking a knee in victory formation.

"I didn't think I was going back out," said Roethlisberger, who had one last play on offense after Tre Norwood intercepted Baker Mayfield. "Anybody in football will tell you when you are on offense that is the best play in football, the best play on offense. To go out there and take a knee made it more emotional and more real.

"It wasn't pretty, but like I said out on the field, feels like that's been my style. Not pretty but finding a way to win. I think that's 92 wins here at Heinz Field, and that's what it's always been about for me, is winning football games.

"This is one more and it's very special."

As the clock hit zero, the crowd erupted, chants of 'Thank You, Ben' rained down, the scoreboard was emblazoned with 'Thank You Ben,' and the fans didn't want it to stop.

And from the looks of things, Roethlisberger didn't want it to stop either.

He was greeted on the field by Steelers President Art Rooney II, the two sharing a special moment.

He hugged teammates, he hugged Browns players, including defensive end Myles Garrett who he shared an extended hug with.

Surrounded by cameras capturing every moment, and his teammates still cheering him on, Roethlisberger waved to the crowd as he stood on the field, applauded them as they applauded him.

And then he took a seat on the bench one last time, the same bench that he sat alongside Maurkice Pouncey last year after Pouncey's last game before he retired.

"I just wanted to sit down and take it in," said Roethlisberger. "Just try and absorb every minute of this place because it's so special, the fans are so special. I wanted to win this game more than anything for them.

"Obviously, we got another game. There is a slim chance, but got to keep fighting. But this game was very special to me."

Roethlisberger took a victory lap, walking over to the stands and high-fiving as many people as he could who stuck around to show him love.

He even struggled to put into words what the fans meant to him.

"I don't know that I can. This is home," said Roethlisberger. "I was born in Ohio but I live here and I'll always be here.

"These fans and this place mean so much to me and my family and always will. I've always said they're the best fans in all of sports, and I'll stick by that to the day I die.

"To see all the signs and jerseys and towels, and to hear them cheer for me coming out of the tunnel, all that stuff, I don't know that I'll ever put it into words.

"I wish I could bottle it and have it forever. But I will in here (in my heart) and in my mind."

And a moment that will truly always be in his mind forever, is when his three kids, Benjamin, Baylee and Bodie came out of the players' tunnel and out onto the field to embrace him, along with his wife Ashley and other family members, who then walked off the field hand-in-hand with him.

"Pretty special having them here and understanding it and knowing what's going on," said Roethlisberger. "They're lucky they don't have to go to school tomorrow.

"This place, Heinz Field, is so special to me. Just like this city is. I'm very thankful and blessed to call this home, so thank you to all the fans and everybody."

Advertising