NFL careers are relatively short, and players need to maximize their earnings while playing in the league. Most NFL players try to maximize their money with every contract they sign.
NFL quarterbacks, however, make huge money, generally have longer careers than the average player, and are judged as much on team performance as individual stats.
For these reasons, it shouldn’t be shocking that Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger recently told the media that it was his idea to take a pay cut for the 2021 season so the team can upgrade the roster.
Ben Roethlisberger has made $250 million in his career
Roethlisberger is a player who has certainly maximized his earnings throughout his NFL career. He signed a big contract as the No. 11 overall pick out of Miami (OH) University. That draft spot came with a six-year $22.26 million contract.
The 6-foot-5 QB won a Super Bowl in his second year, establishing himself as the Steelers franchise QB for the next decade-plus. When his rookie contract came to an end, he signed a six-year $87.9 million extension.
Over the next 12 years, Roethlisberger signed two more contracts with Pittsburgh. There was a four-year $87.4M extension in 2015 and a two-year $68 million contract extension in 2019. He restructured his deals several times over the years to help the Steelers’ salary cap, but his big pay cut came this offseason when he signed a one-year deal for $14 million. This is $5.5 million less than his $19.5 million salary in 2020.
All told, Big Ben has made $253,286,864 in his NFL career.
Roethlisberger says, ‘it was my idea’ to take a pay cut
As Roethlisberger approaches the end of his career, it appears the money is less important to him than winning. That said, we shouldn’t feel too bad for the Lima, Ohio native. A $14 million paycheck still makes him the second-highest player on the team (behind only Cam Heyward’s $16 million average salary) and in the top 1% of earners in the world.
He should get credit for offering to help the team out salary-wise, though. Roethlisberger told reporters, according to ESPN:
[The pay cut] was my idea. I told them I want to help the team out however we can, and so I went to them and told them that I would do whatever I could to help the team sign the guys that are going to help us win football games. … In order to do that, to get guys here, I felt that it was necessary to do that.
The money that Roethlisberger freed up allowed the Steelers to make upgrades, especially on the offensive line. They signed free-agent center B.J. Finney, guards Joe Haeg and Rashaad Coward, and re-signed tackles, Zach Banner and Jarron Jones.
The 2021 season could be Roethlisberger’s last, at least in Pittsburgh
Signing a one-year deal at the age of 39 may signal that Roethlisberger is thinking about retirement. The QB has played 255 games in his 17-year NFL career and would seem to have very little left to accomplish.
Asked about his future after the 2021 season, Roethlisberger was coy, saying:
I’m going to approach this like I do every season — like it’s my last. I think that’s the approach you have to take. And you don’t approach it that way because it could be your last, but you approach it because every single play in the game of football could be your last. Every game could be your last game. That just means I’m going out to give it everything I have.
The way the 2021 season plays out for Big Ben and the Steelers will likely dictate his future. If the team and signal-caller look like the ones that started the 2020 season 11-0, the quarterback could come back on another one-year deal.
If he looks like he did down the final stretch of last season, when the QB threw seven interceptions in his final six games and four in a playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, it may be time for Roethlisberger to hang it up.