After Kevin Colbert made comments that put Ben Roethlisberger‘s status with the 2021 Steelers on shaky ground, the future Hall of Fame quarterback has now met with Steelers owner Art Rooney II. That meeting may have gone quite well.
The Steelers want Roethlisberger to return for the ’21 season, according to his agent. Big Ben’s agent, Ryan Tollner, indicated the team has the 17-year veteran in its plans and will contact him soon regarding the QB’s new cap arrangement, per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (on Twitter). Roethlisberger is set to count more than $41MM against Pittsburgh’s 2021 cap.
It would seem Big Ben’s cap number would need to be addressed before most of the Steelers’ other matters, which do not involve numbers that big. No player’s 2021 cap number surpasses Roethlisberger’s, and it cannot be reduced below $23MM. The Steelers are currently $19MM over the projected 2021 cap, though they have been making moves to get under it. Roethlisberger’s contract represents the top domino in this process.
Although Big Ben threw 33 touchdown passes — his second-most as a pro — he finished 22nd in Total QBR during a Steelers season that tailed off down the stretch. Roethlisberger wrapped his 2020 campaign with a four-interception playoff game but did make a successful return after a severe elbow injury that ended his 2019 season early.
Roethlisberger will turn 39 next week, but the Steelers have yet to make a true investment in Roethlisberger’s long-term successor. And their 12-4 record puts them in the back half of the first round. A Ben return would help stabilize the team’s QB situation for at least one more season.
Fond of restructuring contracts, the Steelers have gotten to work on this front by redoing Cameron Heyward‘s deal. With the cap expected to drop from $198MM to near the $180MM mark, more such moves will need to be made. The Steelers are not expected to use their franchise tag to retain either Bud Dupree or JuJu Smith-Schuster, and other free agents like Mike Hilton, Alejandro Villanueva and James Conner may well depart. Roethlisberger may return for an 18th season, but the Steelers figure to look considerably different after this offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.