There are few NFL teams that are facing tough decisions during the 2021 offseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those, as their salary cap situation could force them to reconsider their relationship with Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger is 38 years old and is coming off a year where more consistency was desired from him and the offense. His performance, along with his contract, could pose a problem for Pittsburgh. The two-time champion should start getting worried about his future in the Steel City, especially after what his general manager just said.
GM Kevin Colbert didn’t commit to Ben Roethlisberger as the quarterback
The Steelers know they have the offensive firepower to be a contender and a defense to stop opponents. However, they are unsure if bringing back Roethlisberger is the right decision for the team’s future. General manager Kevin Colbert spoke with reporters Wednesday and was vague and noncommittal on Roethlisberger being with the team in 2021.
“As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers…He reiterated to us that he wants to continue to play. We told him we have to look at this current situation,” Colbert said per Brooke Pryor.
Roethlisberger had a decent season in 2020, throwing for 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions during the regular season. However, his play declined. Six of his 10 interceptions came during the last six games of the season. His 3,803 yards passing were his lowest output in an entire season since 2012.
“We anticipate that he could still do really good things going forward. Hopefully, we can figure out how to do what’s best for the organization and for Ben. Hopefully, he’ll be able to see that,” Colbert said per Pryor.
If the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger have any chances of reuniting in 2021, they must work to fix his contract.
The Steelers have a $41 million problem
Bringing Roethlisberger back can happen for the Steelers, but they must address a problem they’ve been avoiding for years: his cap hit.
Big Ben’s contract currently carries a $41.25 million cap hit if he is on the roster. That’s a lot for an aging quarterback, especially since the cap is projected to be around $180-181 million per Adam Schefter. Both sides understand that adjusting this deal is essential. The Steelers can save around $19 million toward their cap if they release Big Ben or rework his contract.
The Steelers are projected to be about $30 million over the cap based on the projected amount. That $19 million they’d save cutting or adjusting Roethlisberger’s deal would go a long way.
The cap hit is the biggest issue facing the Steelers and Roethlisberger. If both sides can agree to a number, Big Ben could likely come back. However, there is a real possibility that the Roethlisberger era could be over in Pittsburgh.
Is the Ben Roethlisberger era over in Pittsburgh?
The Steelers have had Ben Roethlisberger under center since 2004. He’s been the constant for that team, winning them two Super Bowls and taking them to three. Being the franchise leader in completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, he has cemented himself as a Steeler great. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be considering his future.
Colbert’s tone and words are similar to Rams GM Les Snead’s comments about Jared Goff. He didn’t commit to Goff as the Rams’ quarterback, then traded him a week later. It’s unlikely Big Ben is traded, but Colbert’s words send a signal that he could be pondering the reality of letting Roethlisberger go. If that does happen, who would the team look at as the next man in charge?
Currently, Mason Rudolph is the backup quarterback for the Steelers. He’s had some time as a starter, doing so in 2019 when Roethlisberger hurt his elbow. He was mediocre at best, not showing that he is ready to become a starter. The team recently signed Dwayne Haskins to a one-year deal. Haskins had some troubles with the Washington Football Team, but maybe being around Mike Tomlin and Pittsburgh’s structure will help.
Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the Pittsburgh Steelers was uncertain coming into the offseason, but now he should be genuinely worried. His GM didn’t commit to him being on the team publicly, which is never a good sign. After 17 seasons and countless memories, the Big Ben era in Pittsburgh could truly be coming to a close.
Stats courtesy of ESPN