It's nearly impossible to imagine Ben Roethlisberger in anything other than black and gold, but he might not be a Pittsburgh Steeler forever.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Big Ben is "incredibly frustrated" with the direction of the franchise, according to Steelers sources. It's not just coordinator Todd Haley, but the entire offensive coaching staff that has the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback discouraged.
Team sources expect Roethlisberger to ask the Steelers to explore a possible trade in the offseason, Rapoport was told. Pittsburgh fielded trade offers for Big Ben last offseason and the team expects to answer the phone again in 2014.
NFL Media columnist Michael Silver told NFL Network's "NFL GameDay Morning" that Roethlisberger's contract is an issue. Scheduled to make $12.1 million next season, his relatively low salary comes with a high cap number, so a restructuring is likely on the horizon if he sticks around.
Silver was told Big Ben ideally wants to finish his career with the Steelers, but if Pittsburgh winds up shopping him, look for the Arizona Cardinals to come calling. Coach Bruce Arians is one of Roethlisberger's best friends, and they worked wonders together in the Steel City.
Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner, released a statement that said Big Ben wants to stay in Pittsburgh and anyone who suggests otherwise is just guessing wrong.
"Ben has always said he wants to play his entire career for the Steelers, and his roots are set firmly in Pittsburgh," Tollner said. "He has a lot left in the tank and is 100 percent committed to winning more championships with the Steelers."
It would be stunning to see Roethlisberger play anywhere other than Pittsburgh, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Peyton Manning.
UPDATE: Roethlisberger called the report "completely false," per ESPN.com. "I'm a Pittsburgher -- this is home. I'm proud to raise my kids here. I don't want to play for anyone else."
Steelers president Art Rooney II also addressed the report in a statement. "Contrary to erroneous reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not explored trading quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and have no plans to do so."