Corny, maybe, but it was a family affair late in the afternoon on a Friday the 13th at the Steelers practice facility.
On hand were Ben Roethlisberger and his family – wife Ashley, son Ben Jr., and daughter Baylee – and the news conference was called to mark the occasion of the team's franchise quarterback remaining a part of the Steelers family through the 2019 NFL season.
Just minutes before Steelers President Art Rooney II walked to the podium with a big smile on his face, Ben Roethlisberger officially had signed a new five-year contract that binds him to the team through the 2019 NFL season.
"We are excited to announce today that we've agreed on a new contract, a five-year deal," said Rooney. "We are looking forward to the future, and we certainly know that Ben has a number of great years ahead, and he will continue to lead our team. Right now, as you all know, he owns most of our (passing) records, but there are still a couple of important records that we are going after in the next few years."
Roethlisberger turned 32 on March 2, which means he will be 37 when this contract is set to expire. Entering his 12th NFL season in 2015, Roethlisberger will have played 16 NFL seasons come the conclusion of the 2019 season, all of them with the Steelers, the team that selected him on the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Ben Roethlisberger signs a 5 year contract extension with the Steelers.
"It's kind of hard to contain my smile when I'm excited to be at a place like this, to be home, and to be able to be here for my whole career," said Roethlisberger. "I know most of you have heard me say for a long time that this is where I have always wanted to be and where I have wanted to spend my whole career. This organization has given me an opportunity to do that. I just feel very blessed to have the opportunity to play for such a great franchise, with great coaches, great teammates, and the best fans in the world. I'm extremely happy that we got a deal done. It's incredibly fair for both sides. We are just excited to move forward and get some more Lombardi trophies in that room next door."
Roethlisberger was going to be entering the final year of his previous contract, but that was torn up and replaced by the deal he signed late this afternoon. It's expected to lower his salary cap number for 2015, which is expected to allow the Steelers to pursue some free agents, extend contracts of some of their own key players such as Cam Heyward, and sign their draft picks, all without the kind of drastic roster moves that teams such as the New Orleans Saints were forced to make in the effort to get in compliance with the salary cap.
"I think it was an easy deal to get done from what I have heard from my representatives and then talking to the (Steelers)," said Roethlisberger. "Easy deals that get done quickly are fair deals.
"First and foremost, our goal is to win Lombardi trophies," added Roethlisberger. "I'm excited to be able to really put the pedal to the metal. I think we have a good, young football team that has a lot of talent and a lot of ability. Walking down the hall, I asked if there was room in that trophy display for more trophies, because that has to be our ultimate goal. I trust that Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the organization will put the best team on the football field, and we are going to give it everything we have."
The Steelers never have been one of the active teams early in any free agency period, and this one has been no different. Just before the gun sounded at 4 p.m. on March 10, the team re-signed tight end Matt Spaeth and outside linebacker Arthur Moats. Then once the bidding began, cornerback Brice McCain signed with the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers did make a move to solidify themselves at running back when they signed veteran DeAngelo Williams to be Le'Veon Bell's backup within minutes of the Roethlisberger announcement.
There are almost seven more weeks of free agency before the draft, which begins on Thursday, April 30. The NFL regular season begins on Thursday, Sept. 10.
"Ben called it a fair contract, and I think that's an accurate description," said Rooney. "We're certainly confident that we're going to be able to continue to be competitive and shoot for our goal, which is to win more of those trophies. We're comfortable with the way the contract is restructured, and we look forward to really putting the kind of team on the field that we've managed to do for most of the years (he's been here)."
There have been a number of teams that have been extremely active during these opening days of free agency, but most of those – the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and New York Jets, for example – lack what the Steelers today guaranteed they will have through the 2019 season: a franchise quarterback. Try winning a championship in today's NFL without one.
"Let's just say this much, having Ben has helped us have the great run that we've had," said Rooney. "We're really excited to continue that, the opportunity that having a player like Ben gives us to be competitive and to try and compete for championships. There is no kind of other way to do it these days in the league. We had an awfully exciting year this past year in terms of the offense and the way Ben and his teammates performed. I think we have a lot to build on."
And so the Steelers will continue through their offseason with the most important piece of their team signed for the next five years. And Ben Roethlisberger will continue his career in the city where it began and with the team he said has become his family.
"It's home. It's family. As much as my wife and kids are my family, so is the Rooney family, and my teammates and coaches (are family as well)," said Roethlisberger. "It just means a lot. I love this place. I love raising my family here. This means that I can stay here with them and raise them in such a great environment and a great city we all love so much."