PITTSBURGH — As a general philosophy, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin treats each individual season as its own entity, with no direct line from one to the next.
Considering quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s state of mind right now, that’s probably a good idea.
While Tomlin still thinks the Steelers have a ‘‘championship-caliber’’ team, even after their embarrassing 36-17 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Roethlisberger isn’t guaranteeing a return in 2017. Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio appearance that he needs time to reflect before coming back for a 14th season.
‘‘I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season,’’ Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger, who also said the Patriots ‘‘outcoached us [and] outplayed us,’’ will turn 35 in March and is under contract through 2020, but knee injuries have forced him to miss some time in each of the last two seasons.
And while the Steelers ripped off nine consecutive victories on their way to the AFC title game for the first time in six seasons, Roethlisberger wasn’t terribly sharp. He threw 10 interceptions in the Steelers’ last seven games.
While Roethlisberger cautioned he’s ‘‘not by any means saying I’m not coming back,’’ he said he considered it wise to take a step back before deciding if he has the energy to make another push.
‘‘I’m just saying at this point in my career, I think it’s prudent . . . to evaluate and just make sure. You want to be able to leave this game walking out of it in a healthy spot. You don’t want to be ‘carted out.’ ’’
That’s fine by Tomlin, who said he wasn’t alarmed by Roethlisberger’s admission because they’ve had similar discussions in the past.
‘‘That’s football,’’ Tomlin said. ‘‘I’m hopeful that he returns, and the potential of his return or not returning will weigh heavily on our planning. That’s life. He’s the most significant component of what it is that we do. We’ll plan and react accordingly.’’
It seems unlikely Roethlisberger — who has three seasons left on the five-year, $100 million deal he signed in March 2015 — would walk away, considering the Steelers figure to be in the mix again next season. Receiver Antonio Brown is under contract, running back Le’Veon Bell will be a free agent but is expected to stick around and receiver Martavis Bryant will be eligible for reinstatement after missing all of 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
There’s plenty for the Steelers to be optimistic about. And the oddsmakers don’t seem concerned about Roethlisberger’s intentions, making the Steelers the early second choice (behind the Patriots) to reach the Super Bowl next year in Minneapolis.