Before the question could even fully be asked, Ben Roethlisberger was smiling and shaking his head.
The answer was an easy one for him.
"I am black and gold through and through," said Roethlisberger.
That he is.
For 17 years Roethlisberger has worn the black and gold, playing in a Steelers record 233 games and starting a record 231. So, when the question arose about his Steelers legacy and would he consider finishing out his career anywhere else, there was no doubt. It's the reason he approached the team about taking a pay cut when he signed a new contract for the 2021 season, his 18th with the team after being selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
"It was my idea," said Roethlisberger of taking a pay cut. "I told them I want to help the team out however we can. I went to them and told them I would do whatever I can to help the team sign guys who are going to help us win football games. I have been extremely blessed to play this game for a long time. That is one of the reasons I wanted to come back. I knew we had a great defense, some amazing weapons on offense. I wanted to come back and be a part of what I think is a special football team that everyone is overlooking, which is kind of cool too. In order to do that, I thought it was necessary to do that.
"I didn't want to go anywhere. That is why I told the Rooneys and Coach (Mike) Tomlin I want to be here. I don't want to be anywhere else. This is home to me. I will always bleed black and gold. Almost half of my life has been here playing football for the Steelers. That is why I told them I would take a pay cut to stay here because this is what I believe in, this group, this city. This is home. I am honored to have my career be here."
Roethlisberger made it clear pretty quick after the 2020 season that he wanted to be back this season. He led the team to an 11-0 record to start the year, while coming off major elbow surgery, but didn't finish out the year as hoped. He knew there was more left to do, and wasted no time letting the team know his desire to return.
"I felt it was the right thing to do if I wanted to play," said Roethlisberger. "I felt relatively healthy, all things considered at the end of the season. I just felt like I had more in the tank, and I felt disappointed about the way the season ended and hate to go out that way. I wanted to let them know if they wanted me back, I would give them everything I've got.
"I didn't play well enough at the end of the season, it's no secret, and I'll be the first to point the thumb at myself. When the ball is in your hand every play, you have to make plays and you have to play better football. If the quarterback is not playing good football, especially late in the season, it's directly related to winning and losing. I will take that on me feeling worn down and not playing good enough football at the end of the season."
It's a new year and could be a whole new look for Roethlisberger and the offense under offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who is in his first season in the role. Canada brings a different approach, and plenty of new aspects for Roethlisberger to learn. But he is excited about it.
"It's new. There is a lot of new," said Roethlisberger. "It's taking some extra studying, but it's a fun new challenge. Guys are getting it and hopefully it translates into winning football.
"When you have had the same offense, or a similar offense for 17 years and all of a sudden something looks the same, but it's called something different, it's very different and a big challenge. That is the game of football, learning new things, new challenges. Coach Canada's offense is one that hopefully will be a good one. We need to execute the plays that he calls. Hopefully we will be better on offense than last year.
"We'll throw a lot of different looks and schemes at people and see what works."
More from Ben:
On drafting so many offensive players in the early rounds in 2021:
"It's been a while since we have gotten so many weapons early on offensively. Guys look great, but we are in shorts and t-shirts and we are still waiting to see what some of the guys can do. What I have seen so far has been really impressive. Knowledge of the game of football, picking up the offense already. These guys came in for rookie minicamp and haven't left. To have the repetition with those guys, to communicate with them, to talk to them whether it's at a locker, on the field, I am excited about the group we have in here."
On running back Najee Harris:
"He is a really hard worker. He is in here extra-long hours. I think the other day the running backs coach (Eddie Faulkner) told him I have to go home now. That just shows he is still in there watching film. He is constantly asking questions. That is good. He doesn't seem lost. It's not like it's too big for him. His head isn't spinning. He is asking questions and that is good. He is playing fast. The most exciting part about Najee, that we are all going to be excited to see, once he gets it, it clicks and he goes full speed, man it's going to be something to see."
On JuJu Smith-Schuster re-signing this offseason:
"I was really excited to get JuJu back. I felt like I was in his ear and in Coach Tomlin's ear a lot during that process. To have a familiar face, the guy that brings so much to this team. I don't know if there is a guy in the NFL on third and short to medium that you want the ball in his hands as much as JuJu. What he gives, the passion to this city and team to help us win is awesome. As young as he is, he is the leader of that receiver group. That group is a fun group. That is one of the reasons I said I wanted to come back. That is a special group. I am excited to see what they can bring to this offense and this team this year."
The Steelers participate in day 4 of the 2021 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex