PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger said he was “pretty sure” he wants to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 2021 season and is ready to do “anything” to keep the team going despite his massive 2021 salary cap hits help.
With the salary cap falling due to a drop in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Roethlisberger’s $ 41.2 million cap for the next season is unsustainable, something Roethlisberger and team president and CEO Art Rooney II seem to agree on.
“I want to do everything I can and made it clear to them from the start that it was my idea to basically help the team as best I can this year,” said Roethlisberger told The Athletic.
He added, “I’m pretty sure I want to go another year (because) I think I can make it and give us a real chance and win.”
Rooney spoke earlier Thursday during his close-of-season Zoom call that the Steelers had left the door open for Big Ben to return pending adjustments to his contract.
“I think we were up there with Ben to let him know we can’t have him again under the current contract,” said Rooney. “I think he understands that we still have work to do there. We’re going to have more conversations internally and we are going to have more conversations with Ben and we need to know what the cap is to complete some of those decisions.” “
Roethlisberger also told The Athletic that he is “not at all about my pay this year!”
After losing the wild card to the Cleveland Browns, the 38-year-old Roethlisberger said he would speak to his family before making a concrete decision about returning in 2021. He hoped, however, that the Steelers would have him back if he did. But will Rooney and the team give him the opportunity to write his own ending to a successful career?
“With Ben we owe it to him to have a conversation about how he wants to end his career, and we intend to do that.”
To get some relief for the cap and allow Roethlisberger at least one more season on his own terms, the Steelers could ask the quarterback to cut his pay in the final year of his contract. The Steelers have already prorated $ 22,250,000 on his contract, leaving $ 19 million – $ 4 million base salary and a $ 15 million roster bonus – available for a wage cut or reorganization. The more likely option is an expansion and restructuring that carries some of the cap hit into the 2022 season.
“I think these are talks we will have with Ben and his agent,” Rooney said of ways to massage Roethlisberger’s contract. “It takes two to find out, and if we can agree to what he wants, we just have to see.”
The Steelers currently have three quarterbacks on their roster for the 2021 season: Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and the newly signed Dwayne Haskins. However, Rooney acknowledged that if they can configure the cap on the adjustment, they’ll need to add another signal caller to potentially include them in the sweepstakes for one of the known quarterbacks available.
“I think if you look at our room we need to add someone to the room this off-season,” said Rooney. “We will look at all the options we have to do so.”
Determining Roethlisberger’s future is only the first step in many difficult decisions and discussions for the Steelers this off-season.
General Manager Kevin Colbert’s annual deal is on draft, and while Rooney said the two had a lot of discussions about Colbert’s future, nothing is official.
“I have a feeling Kevin will be back but who knows,” said Rooney.
Coach Mike Tomlin’s contract runs for at least the 2021 season with an option for the 2022 season, and when assessing his head coach, Rooney believes Tomlin will lead the team in the future.
“We’ll look into Mike’s contract with him when the time goes by in this off-season,” he said. “I’m just saying I feel good when I say that he will be our coach in the future. … In terms of his work, we didn’t finish as we wished. The playoff game is tough To analyze … if you flip the ball just like that, you won’t win many games, I don’t see how you attribute that to the coach’s preparation.
Rooney also said if everything went his way, he would head into the 2021 season with the same squad as 2020.
“If I had my Druthers I would say if I could have the same roster again next year I would,” he said. “Obviously that’s not the case.”
Given the team’s salary cap – the Steelers are valued at nearly $ 30 million with 48 signed players, according to ESPN’s roster management system – it will be difficult, if not impossible, to re-sign free agents like Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster .
“It’s fair to say this will be the toughest salary cap challenge we’ve had in a long time, maybe ever,” said Rooney.
The first step in figuring out the rest of the roster is to determine Roethlisberger’s future.
When asked bluntly whether Roethlisberger should return, Rooney paused and then said he wanted him back but offered no guarantee for the quarterback’s future.
“I think we’d like to see Ben again for another year if that could work,” he said. “But as I said, there is still a lot to be done if this can happen. Decisions may have to be made on both ends for this to happen.”