Ben Roethlisberger publicly wrestled with retirement this offseason -- and nobody bought a word of it.
One former teammate, though, says the 35-year-old Steelers quarterback was honestly pondering walking away from the NFL after 13 seasons.
"I got to sit down and talk to him and one thing he told me is he did take it seriously," ex-offensive lineman Willie Colon told PFT Live on Tuesday. "He's dealt with a lot of injuries."
Colon went on to say that Big Ben is bound to ask himself the same question next offseason, with his answer boiling down to how well Pittsburgh's front five protects him in 2017.
"He's passionate about playing, but one thing that keeps his fire going is that offensive line," Colon said. "You have to worry about the health of Ben Roethlisberger. Can you keep him upright, can he stay healthy for the duration? They have the offensive line, they have the pieces around him to make it work."
The Steelers quietly own one of the better lines league-wide and arguably the NFL's top trio at quarterback, wide receiver and running back.
Roethlisberger isn't being asked to toil for a bottom-feeding club struggling for wins. He's sitting pretty with a loaded roster primed to make another legitimate run at the Super Bowl.
While nobody should criticize the man for thinking about his health, Big Ben has a genuine opportunity to nab a third Lombardi.
From that angle, the question of playing on -- through the risks and perils of pro football -- boils down to legacy.