Ben Roethlisberger spent his entire 18-year career with the Steelers, but he very nearly ended up joining the 49ers midway through his career.
As reported by Dan Pompei of The Athletic, the 49ers had a trade in place in 2009 to acquire Roethlisberger and make him the team’s new starting quarterback. However, then-coach Mike Singletary says he vetoed the deal.
Why did Singletary decide to do that? Part of it was related to Alex Smith. He believed in Smith and wanted to give the fifth-year quarterback and former No. 1 pick a chance to prove himself in 2009.
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Second, Roethlisberger had recently been accused of sexual assault. That didn’t sit well with Singletary, who placed an emphasis on character in the 49ers’ locker room.
“I had been telling the team I wanted a team of character,” Singletary told Pompei. “I felt I had to be true to that.”
Singletary lasted just two full seasons as the 49ers’ head coach, as Smith went 8-12 in 20 starts in 2009 and 2010 while totaling 32 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and logging an 81.8 passer rating. Singletary posted an 18-22 record during his two-and-a-half years with the team in part due to the team’s inconsistent quarterback play.
Smith would eventually become a solid NFL starter after the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh to take over and develop the QB. Things didn’t work out quite as well for Singletary, who worked just four more years in the NFL, spending 2011 through 2013 as an assistant coach with the Vikings and 2016 with the Rams.
To this day, he laments not taking a chance on Roethlisberger, who posted a 114-61-1 record from 2009 through his retirement following the 2021 season and threw for nearly 50,000 passing yards, 317 touchdowns and 142 interceptions.
“If I could do it again, I’d do it differently,” Singletary said.
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