This offseason, a bizarre storyline popped up that involved Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger potentially retiring before the 2017 season. As in he would not play football again. This was bizarre because no one saw it coming.

It was more bizarre because no one believed him when Roethlisberger said it. In January, after the Steelers lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Roethlisberger went on the radio and refused to commit to playing in 2017. In March he said he was "leaning towards" coming back and everyone rolled their eyes. He finally announced his return and held a block party to celebrate.

As it turns out, the chatter was apparently serious. According to former Steelers lineman Willie Colon, appearing on Pro Football Talk Live, Roethlisberger was taking it "seriously."

"I got to sit down and talk to him and one thing he told me is he did take it seriously," Colon said. "He's dealt with a lot of injuries."

Colon played with Roethlisberger for seven seasons, so he knows him well, having protected his QB from an onslaught of pass rushers. 

You would think that when the two sat together, Roethlisberger would give him the straight talk about whether he was thinking about not playing again. And, despite the fact that he has many millions of reasons to play football, there is an argument that Roethlisberger could actually consider walking away. 

For one, he's not that much younger than Tony Romo (Roethlisberger is 35, Romo is 37), who just left the game. Roethlisberger is older than Jay Cutler (34) who also just retired. 

And, as Colon pointed out, he's dealt with a ton of injuries in his career and taken a lot of shots.  

"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 departure of Bruce Arians wasn't seen as favorable at the time, but it might have helped Roethlisberger extend his career. Arians is an outstanding coach, but he and Roethlisberger working together mostly resulted in plenty of big shots to the body. The addition of Todd Haley took some time, but the duo have managed to keep Roethlisberger from taking as many shots since Haley took over in 2012 (how has it been that long?).

From 2006-11, Roethlisberger was sacked 261 times, for an average of 44 per season and 47 per 16 games. From 2012-16, Roethlisberger was sacked 142 times, an average of 28 per season and 32 per 16 games. 

That's a massive difference when it comes to helping a quarterback age gracefully. The more shots an elderly quarterback -- and, yes, Roethlisberger is elderly in quarterback years -- takes, the less likely he is to play for a long time. 

It might not ultimately matter to Roethlisberger, who appears to be getting tired of taking shots regardless of how many hits he's absorbing. The Steelers have to know that they're approaching the end of an era, even if no one believes he will be walking away from football right now.