But it’s not a certainty it will happen.
“I think we’ve been up front with Ben in letting him know that we couldn’t have him back under the current contract,” said Rooney via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “I think he understands we have some work to do there. We’ll have more conversations internally, and we’ll have more conversations with Ben, and we’ll have to know what the cap number is to finalize some of those decisions.”
To make things work the Steelers will either ask Roethlisberger to take a pay cut, or extend and restructure his deal so the cap hit is spread over into the 2022 season.
“I think that those are discussions we’ll have with Ben and his representative,” Rooney said, as part of his season wrap-up Zoom call, which took place on Thursday. “It takes two to figure that out, and whether we can agree with what he wants, we’ll just have to see.”
Notably, Rooney sounded willing to be somewhat deferential to Roethlisberger’s wishes, owing to the fact that he quarterbacked the team to two Super Bowl titles and three Super Bowl appearances in his 17 seasons.
“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,” noted Rooney.
As it stands now, Big Ben is scheduled to receive a $15 million roster bonus just after the start of the new league year in mid-March. His salary for 2021 is $4 million. His total cap number is a whopping $41.25 million.
Even if Roethlisberger were to retire or get released the Steelers would still have to absorb a $22.25 million dead money cap hit. That’s even larger than the dead money hit the Steelers took in 2019 after trading disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Ben Roethlisberger: ‘My Idea’ to Restructure My Contract
How does Roethlisberger feel about making concessions so he can play one more season?
Shortly after Art Rooney spoke with the media, Roethlisberger touched base with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic and indicated that he’s fine with making some adjustments to his deal. In fact, it was “his idea.”
Ben told me he went to the Steelers first about restructuring his contract. "I want to do everything I can and made that very clear to them from the very beginning that it was my idea to basically help the team however I can this year."
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) January 28, 2021
According to Bouchette, Roethlisberger also told him: “I don’t care at all about my pay this year!” He advised that he is willing to restructure his contract, adding, “I am pretty sure I want to go one more year [because] I think I can do it and give us a real chance of winning.”
Art Rooney on the QB Position: ‘We’ll Have to Add Somebody’
Yet even if Roethlisberger does return in 2021, Rooney indicated that the Steelers plan to add another quarterback to the roster.
“I think when you look at our room, we’ll have to add somebody to the room this offseason,” Rooney said. “We’ll look at all the opportunities we have to do that.”
The new quarterback might come via the draft, or the Steelers could pursue one of the veteran quarterbacks who might be available via free agency or trade. The team could also sign an undrafted free agent after the 2021 NFL draft, or bring back third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs, who is a pending unrestricted free agent.
Current Makeup of the Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Room
At the moment, the Steelers have three quarterbacks signed for 2021: Roethlisberger, backup Mason Rudolph and former Washington first-round pick Dwayne Haskins, who was inked to a one-year future contract last week. Rudolph is entering the last year of the rookie deal he signed in 2018, which will pay him a salary of $1,014,081.
Currently, the Steelers have no money committed to the quarterback position beyond 2021.
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