Ben Roethlisberger prolongs career, Pittsburgh Steelers' season with another fourth-quarter comeback

BALTIMORE -- The night before Ben Roethlisberger’s last regular-season game, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback got a text from his dad.

His dad asked how he was, asked if he was thinking about the next day being potentially the last time he suited up as a Steeler.

Roethlisberger’s response was simple: He told his dad he was fine -- maybe a surprising answer given the significance of the game.

Or perhaps he was foreshadowing what came to pass less than 24 hours later.

The Steelers, with just a 9% chance to make the playoffs entering Sunday’s games, prolonged Roethlisberger’s career by clinching the No. 7 seed thanks to a 16-13 overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens, a Jacksonville Jaguars upset against the Indianapolis Colts and the Las Vegas Raiders kicking a winning field goal as time expired in overtime to prevent a tie with the Los Angeles Chargers.

By the thinnest of margins with impossibly long odds, Roethlisberger and the Steelers (9-7-1) will make the playoffs in what is likely his final season -- making him the third quarterback since 1950 to make a playoff start in his rookie and last season, joining Dan Marino and Andrew Luck.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t feel like [my last game],” Roethlisberger said Sunday. “I think last week [at home] was so much more emotional, and it took it all out and made me feel like, ‘Let’s go play.’ So, at no point during this game did I feel like this was it. I’m just glad I didn’t have those feelings.”

In keeping those feelings at bay, Roethlisberger kept his poise and helped deliver the overtime win with a surge in the fourth quarter and extra period. After completing just 11 of 19 attempts for 95 yards through the third quarter, Roethlisberger erupted for 149 yards and a touchdown on 19 of 25 attempts to close the game.

“We just like to stress people out early, all you guys and all our fans at home,” Roethlisberger said with a laugh. “... But I do think it shows something about this team, that you can continue to fight and never give up.”

He led the Steelers’ lone touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, taking five minutes off the clock en route to a 6-yard Chase Claypool touchdown reception.

Then, in overtime, the 39-year-old converted two third-and-longs on passes to Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson. And he hit Ray-Ray McCloud over the middle on fourth-and-8 for a 10-yard gain to set up Chris Boswell’s winning field goal.

“That dude just wants the ball back in his hand one more time,” Cam Heyward said of Roethlisberger. “When we don’t trick it off as a defense, let the game get out of hand, No. 7 is going to find a way. It’s not going to happen first quarter, but give yourself a chance. Give your quarterback a chance. They got moving parts over there, but they’re starting to find a way to win.”

It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing game for Roethlisberger and the offense -- and it hasn’t been for most of the season -- but the quarterback still had enough in the tank to deliver his seventh game-winning drive this season, tied for the second most by a quarterback in a single season since the 1970 merger.

“He’s the same when everybody else gets funny,” Tomlin said, complimenting his quarterback’s poise. “Everybody else gets a little tight, he’s the same guy.”

Now Rothlisberger is set for a rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC). Just two weeks ago, he and the Steelers were manhandled by the Chiefs in a 36-10 loss in which Roethlisberger completed 23 of 35 attempts for 159 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

But immediately after beating the Ravens, the Steelers weren’t worried about the tall task ahead of them. Instead, they shouted and danced in the locker room, relishing in Sunday’s victory and in keeping their hopes for the postseason alive -- something that seemed impossible at multiple points in the season.

“To see the difference in that locker room, it was, you could hear a pin drop that week after [the Kansas City] game,” Heyward said. “But, guys are excited. Guys have worked their tails off. It hasn’t been perfect, but we have grinded out these wins, and we’re just hungry. Just give us a shot.”