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Ben Roethlisberger says the 49ers called him to gauge his interest after Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury

Brock Purdy ended up as the superior option

San Francisco 49ers v Pittsburgh Steelers

More stories continue to leak regarding which quarterback the 49ers reached out to after Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury in December 2022. Philip Rivers denied that he reached out to San Francisco earlier this month, but that rumor is out there.

During an interview with 105.9 The X host Mark Madden, another quarterback from the 2004 NFL Draft class mentioned the 49ers. Here’s what Ben Roethlisberger said during his interview about his potential return to the NFL in a 49ers uniform:

“They called to gauge interest, OK? I had conversations with my agent, with my wife, my family. Prayed a lot about it. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a small part of me that was intrigued, like, ‘Oh, man I can still do it,’ like prove to people that I could still play.”

Roethlisberger shares the mentality of most professional athletes. They are wired to prove you wrong. That, “me against the world” mentality is a storyline that drives several athletes to where they are now.

Ultimately, Big Ben could only envision himself in a Steelers’ jersey:

“At the end of the day, I just can’t see myself in anything other than black and gold. Even though they had a great chance, I think, to win a Super Bowl, it would have been hard for me to try to go win a Super Bowl anywhere else but here. At the end of the day, it was the smallest little belief in my heart to go play again.”

We don’t have to waste time on “did the 49ers really pursue Roethlisberger?” Instead, let’s think about that question the same way Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch, and the rest of the front office weren’t going to leave any quarterback stone unturned. The team’s roster was too talented for another season to be squandered thanks to an injury.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

As the 49ers perused through their replacement options, they’d inevitably have a conversation about Rivers, Roethlisberger, and, how risky it would be to turn the keys over to the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

Asking how interested the 49ers were in either veteran or how early did they view Big Ben as an option in their process would be more productive.

It’s human nature to judge a person based on your more recent exposure to them. During the final month of Big Ben’s 2022 season, he was struggling to crack 200 yards passing. It was time. And that’s not in a degrading tone. Roethlisberger just turned 41 years old.

Garoppolo’s greatest weakness was his inability to create once the initial play or read broke down. Once upon a time, that’s how Roethlisberger made a name for himself. But expecting a 40-year-old quarterback to re-enact what once made him special after a year off and fresh off the couch would’ve been the bigger gamble for San Francisco.

The Niners had a 22-year-old who knew the offense. So instantly, Purdy had the leg-up. And there should be added emphasis on Purdy knowing the offense. Think about his job title and everything that encompasses being a successful quarterback. Now, remember where he was drafted.

Backup quarterbacks who don’t memorize the playbook the same way you memorize your drive to work aren’t employed. They don’t have a choice, since the odds of a QB3 making the active roster have been slim for most team’s lately. The playbook is a backup’s best friend.

Plus, Shanahan had seen Purdy’s athleticism and play making during practice since the summer. Former 49ers offensive coordinator and Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel called Purdy’s preseason “as good as any rookie.”

Could Roethlisberger have turned San Francisco and left them no choice but to roll with Purdy? Sure. Based on his words and tone, it never sounded like he was fully invested in a comeback. That may have made the 49ers decision for them.