(SportsNetwork.com) - Fire usually accompanies smoke but in the case of Ben Roethlisberger, any smoldering embers coming from him will be extinguished by the Pittsburgh Steelers long before a trade is needed.
Early Sunday morning, hours before the Steelers dominated the Buffalo Bills en route to an easy 23-10 win, the NFL Network reported that Roethlisberger was so frustrated with how the first two months of the 2013 season have unfolded that he could ask to be traded in the offseason.
"Steelers sources tell me to expect Roethlisberger to ask (the organization) in the offseason to explore possible trade options," Ian Rapoport said. "The Steelers did field trade offers for Big Ben last offseason, they're expected to do so again this offseason. I asked a Steelers source would they actually trade their franchise quarterback and the response I got was 'No, unless we could replace him with a franchise quarterback.'"
And that should be the end of what is essentially a non-story because expecting to replace a franchise quarterback with a different one is not only an exercise in futility, it begs one simple question -- why in the world would you be looking to replace one if you already have one in the first place?
There are only two real options here, the Steelers no longer think Big Ben is a franchise guy or Roethlisberger is fueling this in an attempt to reshape the coaching staff in Pittsburgh, specifically head coach Mike Tomlin or the far more likely scenario, offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Figure on the latter although Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner, quickly tried to quash his client's culpability in the story, taking direct aim at Rapoport.
"Ian Rapoport's apparent sources seem to be guessing what Ben feels about the Steelers and being traded," Tollner told CBS Sports. "This is completely wrong and inaccurate. Ben has always said he wants to play his entire career for the Steelers, and his roots are set firmly in Pittsburgh. He has a lot left in the tank and is 100 percent committed to winning more championships with the Steelers."
With the toothpaste already out of the tube, the Steelers also felt a need to clarify things and minutes before halftime of the game, team president Art Rooney II issued this simple statement: "Contrary to erroneous reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not explored trading quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and have no plans to do so."
There is little doubt that Roethlisberger is frustrated, however.
Age and injuries have finally caught up to the 2013 Steelers and Tomlin's current bunch remains in the cellar in the AFC North with a 3-6 record, a far cry from its accustomed spot as one of the true heavyweights in the conference.
Since Chuck Noll's first winning season in 1972, the Steelers have had only seven losing campaigns over a 40-year span with the low-water mark being 5-11 in 1988. Over that same time frame, Pittsburgh has won 20 division titles, eight AFC crowns and is football's only six-time Super Bowl champion with Roethlisberger at the helm for two of those Lombardi Trophies.
This is not an organization used to failure or looking up at anyone in the standings.
While Roethlisberger tossed a touchdown pass against the Bills and the Pittsburgh defense rebounded from a historically bad performance, you're buying fool's gold if you think a win like that foreshadows a quick turnaround.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Tomlin said earlier in the season. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need to stick together and persevere."
Persevere perhaps but stick together? That's unlikely.
The ultimate end-game here is Haley leaving Pittsburgh.
The reserved Bruce Arians, now the head coach in Arizona and the offensive coordinator with the Steelers before Haley arrived, was extremely tight with Roethlisberger and seemed to understand the strength of Ben's game was extending plays with his strength and pocket awareness.
In came Haley with his loud and often off-putting style, along with an agenda focused on getting the ball out of Roethlisberger's hands far more quickly in an effort to extend the veteran's career.
On paper that sounded like a pretty good idea. It's always prudent to maximize the shelf life of your best players and no matter how big and strong Roethlisberger is, taking hits in an NFL game will take a serious toll on the body.
Problem is a player's strength is his strength and Roethlisberger isn't Peyton Manning. His game isn't about the back foot hitting the ground and the ball coming out.
You can't pound the square peg in the round hole forever yet Haley has been trying to do exactly that since he arrived in Western Pennsylvania.
Any trade demands by Roethlisberger or his representatives now or after the season are simply a power-play in an effort to go back to a formula which resulted in two Super Bowl crowns.