On Saturday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gerry Dulac revealed that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled to meet with owner Art Rooney II and head coach Mike Tomlin “to discuss what roster plans they have for the 2021 season.” The meeting is expected to take place the week after the Super Bowl, this information having been related to Dulac by Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner.
According to Dulac, the purpose of the meeting is not to consult with Roethlisberger about his preferences in regards to roster makeup. Instead, Rooney and Tomlin plan to provide him with insight in terms of how the offense might be reconstructed—and perhaps which players are likely (or not likely) to be retained. Then it will be a matter of whether Roethlisberger is willing to go another year with whoever is still around.
“In essence, they will be putting their quarterback in a position to make up their minds” as to whether Roethlisberger will return for another year, writes Dulac, who says “the Steelers don’t want to be the bad guy in all this. They do not want to be the one to end Roethlisberger’s career and boot their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback out the door.”
As for Roethlisberger’s contract, it will not be an issue, according to Tollner, who told Dulac that Big Ben’s camp will make “any necessary adjustment” to help the team’s cap situation. What is important to Roethlisberger is “having key players back, like [Maurkice] Pouncey,” who is reportedly close to a decision about his future.
Ryan Tollner: “Ben knows he has more left, but having key players back, like (Maurkice) Pouncey, will be important. Ben’s contract won’t hold things up. We told them immediately after the season we will make any necessary adjustment to help their cap situation in 2021.”
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 28, 2021
What Would Ben Roethlisberger’s New Contract Look Like?
If Roethlisberger decides to return for an 18th and final season, Dulac says the Steelers would give Big Ben a new contract with voidable years.
“They would sign him to a new three-year deal with no intention of having him play the final two years,” explains Dulac. “They could convert his money into a signing bonus, spread it out over three seasons and drastically reduce his salary cap hit in 2021,” which is currently at $41.25 million.
Two Possible Outcomes
So there you have it. Either Roethlisberger comes back in 2021 with a new contract, one that pushes some of the salary cap liabilities years into the future.
Or, the team’s plans—and perhaps Maurkice Pouncey’s plans—prompt him to retire. In the latter case, Pittsburgh would absorb a $22.25 million dead money cap hit on its 2021 salary cap and the Mason Rudolph era would begin, as would a search for a new franchise quarterback.
As for whether it’s a good football decision to allow Roethlisberger to return, well, he isn’t getting any younger. In fact, he will turn 39 in early March. Moreover, his mobility was increasingly limited as the 2020 season wore on, he can’t bend down to take snaps under center, and it looks like he’s no longer comfortable getting hit by defenders.
Especially alarming is that the first half of the 48-37 playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns was eerily reminiscent of Dan Marino’s last game, a 62-7 postseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s worth noting that 2004 draft class mates Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have already retired, with Manning bowing out a year ago and Rivers walking away earlier this month. It seems like a good time for Big Ben to do the same.