Last Night was a Very Fitting Last Ride at Home for Big Ben

(Justin Berl/Getty Images)

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On a chilly Monday night at Heinz Field, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated their division rival Cleveland Browns 25-14, there were a lot of takeaways from the game.  Rookie running back Najee Harris had his best game as a professional, rushing the ball 28 times for 188 yards and scoring the game-sealing touchdown.  The defense recorded nine sacks, four by T.J. Watt, giving him 21.5 for the season and only one away from tying the record for most sacks in a regular season.  

However, the biggest story of the night belonged to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  His final home game as a Steeler was a fitting send-off to one of the greatest players to ever don the black and gold.

To play 18 years of professional football is an incredible feat.  To play all of those years for one franchise is unheard of.  In today's era of football, and really professional sports in general, players switch teams constantly.  So for Ben to play his whole career as a Steeler is part of why fans in Pittsburgh adore him so much.  

I mean he's been the quarterback for almost my entire Steeler fanhood.  I remember being so excited when they drafted him, quickly becoming my favorite player on the team.  Ben was the first Steelers jersey I ever had.  And as a result of his tenure and success, he has become synonymous with the Steelers for me.

So to see all of the love and support Ben received last night was amazing.  After saying that last night would more or less be his final home game, the fans showed up in droves to cheer him on.  And deservedly so.  

Last night's win guaranteed that in his 18 seasons as the Steelers quarterback, the team has never had a losing season.  Roethlisberger won two Super Bowls and is fifth all-time in passing yards.  His list of accolades is lengthy, proving once again how successful he and the team were with him at the helm.  Ben always gave his all for the team and Steelers fans recognize that.  He became famous for his ability to scramble around the pocket and escape sacks.  He played through so many injuries over the course of his career that it became a popular meme floating around the internet.  All of which to say is why Roethlisberger received the fan adoration he did last night.  

And I could feel this, even watching from home.  ESPN did a great job of dedicating a lot of the pre-game and in-game graphics to him and his career.  Every time they would pan to the crowd, you could see the love through various signs and pictures of Ben.  

Even though it was a night when temperatures were in the teens, it made me jealous that I wasn't there to celebrate with everyone.  And there was no more fitting way for Ben to end his career at Heinz Field than beating the Browns one final time.  The win gave him a 25-3-1 all-time record against Cleveland, just an absolutely staggering number against your biggest rival.  I was happy that Ben was able to end the game with one final kneel down, which he describes as "the best play in football."  Watching him parade around the field afterwards, high-fiving fans and celebrating with his family was emotional for all Steelers fans.  Truly the end of an era.

I could delve into what the future will look like without Ben leading the offense but there will be plenty of time for that in the offseason.  I just want to savor the moment for now.  While there is still a chance the Steelers can make the playoffs, it will require the Jaguars beating the Colts next week and I admittedly am not expecting that to happen.  Therefore in my mind, this upcoming week against the Ravens will be Ben's last game in a Steelers uniform.  It's sad to even type out that sentence.  

We've known this was coming for a while now but to see it actually happening in real time is somber.  So many of us have grown up with him as "my quarterback."  I'm not ready to enter a world where that isn't the case.  So let's hold on to these last few moments and appreciate the memories.  From one Steelers fan to many others, thanks for giving Ben the proper Steelers send-off that he so much deserved.  And to Ben, thanks for 18 incredible years.