Steelers’ Art Rooney: ‘We Would Like To’ Have Ben Roethlisberger Back

Ben Roethlisberger

Gett Images Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger attempts a pass against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 21, 2020.

On Tuesday February 23rd, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney II. In the wake of that meeting, Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, indicated that the Steelers “want Ben back” and that he would soon be in contact with the team to resolve outstanding issues related to his client’s contract.

On Wednesday morning, Art Rooney II issued a statement in which he confirmed as much, but noted that there is still work to be done.

“We both understand that the next step is to work out Ben’s contract situation.”

Ben Roethlisberger Set to Count $41.25 Million Against the Team’s 2021 Salary Cap

As it stands now, the longtime Steelers quarterback—who will turn 39 on March 2nd and has one year left on his contract—is set to count $41.25 million against the team’s salary cap. Last month, Rooney said the Steelers could not have Roethlisberger back in 2021 “under the current contract.”

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s meeting and Wednesday’s statement, it’s still not clear whether the Steelers want Roethlisberger to take a pay cut, or whether they plan to pay him the $19 million he is owed under the current agreement.

If it’s the latter, the Steelers can simply sign Roethlisberger to a contract extension and convert his base salary ($4 million) and roster bonus ($15 million, due in mid-March) into a signing bonus that can be spread out over multiple ‘voidable’ years. That would reduce his 2021 salary cap hit but leave “dead money” on the cap after Roethlisberger’s career has come to an end.

If it’s the former, the two parties still need to agree on compensation. They also need to have a new agreement in place before the start of the new league year on the afternoon of March 17th, which is the deadline for being in compliance with the salary cap.

Will the Steelers Draft a QB in 2021?

If Ben Roethlisberger does return for an 18th (and presumably final) NFL season, that makes it less likely that the team will use a first-round draft pick on a quarterback. But it perhaps makes it more likely that the Steelers will take a flyer on a QB in the middle rounds of the draft.

One reason is that backup Mason Rudolph will be entering the last year of the rookie contract he signed in 2018—and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season. The only other quarterback currently under contract with the team is former Washington first-rounder Dwayne Haskins, who was signed to a one-year deal in January. Last year’s practice squad/fourth-string QB Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Los Angeles Rams last month. Josh Dobbs, who was the team’s third-stringer in 2020, is an unrestricted free agent but could return if the Steelers don’t add a quarterback via the draft.

As it stands now, the Steelers have no quarterbacks under contract—and no money allocated to the position—in 2022.

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