PITTSBURGH – There are days when Ben Roethlisberger can feel every single hit he’s absorbed during a decade as one of the NFL’s most fearless quarterbacks.
And there are days when the Pittsburgh Steelers star sees the young faces surrounding him in the huddle and it seems like he can play forever.
Yet at age 32 with small flecks of gray in his stubble, Roethlisberger knows he’s in the second half of a career that already includes two Super Bowl rings.
While he understands the NFL is a business, Roethlisberger has no plans to entertain the idea of taking his business somewhere other than Pittsburgh.
Not now. Not next summer. Not ever if Roethlisberger has his way. And as far as he knows, his boss — Steelers president Art Rooney II — feels the same. Until that changes for either side, concern over his status is nothing more than misguided speculation.
“I’ve always said it’s up to the good Lord and Mr. Rooney when I’m done,” Roethlisberger told AP on Saturday.
Translation: he’s not going anywhere.
Though Roethlisberger would have liked to have a new contract in place by the time the 2014 regular season opens, he is hardly worried about his future after Rooney announced on Friday the team will wait until next spring to iron out a deal.
“To get it signed and to have that security would have been nice, but there’s other plans and I’m OK with that,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger has two seasons left on the eight-year, $102 million contract he signed in 2008. It was one of the most lucrative contracts in the league at the time.
Now the average value ranks below contemporaries such as Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler, players who have yet to make a Super Bowl much less win it twice.
Pressed on if he pays attention to how much others who have lesser resumes but higher salaries are paid, Roethlisberger says only “it’s tricky.”
Don’t get him wrong, he’s aware of what he’s accomplished. He’s also aware the Rooneys need to find a way to pay 52 other players on the roster.
“I have faith that the Steelers will do what we need to do when it’s time and that’s putting people on the field through free agency, trades, draft everything to make us the best team we can possibly be,” Roethlisberger said.
If he sounds like a grown-up, maybe that’s because he is.
The hard-partying 20-something once suspended by the NFL for violating its personal conduct policy is now a married father of two who takes his son to Pittsburgh Pirates games and is already thinking about where 1-year-old Ben Jr. and infant daughter Baylee, born in March, will one day attend school.
49ers lose Hunter
Santa Clara, California — San Francisco 49ers running back Kendall Hunter’s season is over before it began.
The 49ers confirmed Saturday that Hunter tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Friday’s practice. Hunter began training camp as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore.
Hunter’s knee buckled awkwardly as he tried to make a move during a non-contact drill. He was able to walk off the field on his own before an MRI confirmed the tear.
Hunter’s injury leaves LaMichael James, rookie Carlos Hyde, rehabbing Marcus Lattimore and Jewel Hampton as the most likely candidates to fill the void behind Gore in San Francisco’s power running game.
Hunter had spelled Gore more than anybody the past three years. He burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011 and started strong in 2012 before missing the final two months of the season — when the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl, losing to the Baltimore Ravens — with a torn left Achilles tendon.
Hunter rushed for 358 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries last season. He has averaged 4.6 yards per carry since San Francisco selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Oklahoma State.
Ballard hurt again
Anderson, Indiana — Colts running back Vick Ballard spent 10 months working his way back from a serious injury.
Now he has to do it again.
On Saturday, coach Chuck Pagano confirmed Indianapolis’ worst fear — that Ballard tore his left Achilles’ tendon and will need season-ending surgery.
It’s the second straight year Ballard sustained a freak injury in practice without being touched.
Last September, he tore the ACL in his right knee while making a cut in practice and missed the final 15 games.