It is no secret the future of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the early weeks of the NFL offseason.
While Steelers president Art Rooney II shared updates on the ongoing negotiations between Roethlisberger and the club in a statement Wednesday, he provided further details to Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola on Friday.
“We have been in communication with Ben throughout the offseason, and we have been clear that we would like him back but we needed to do something with the contract,” Rooney told Steelers.com. “We’re getting to that point now where the time is right. We have a better idea of where the salary cap is going to be, which is an important component of the decision. It just felt like it was time to sit down with Ben and have a good discussion, make sure the lines of communication are open. We had a good, productive discussion, and I assured him we would like to have him back, and he assured me that he wants to come back and play. And so we both left it that we know we have to try to get something worked out on the contract.”
The new league year officially begins on Wednesday, March 17. Not only is that the start of free agency and the deadline for salary cap compliance, but it is also the cutoff for Roethlisberger contract negotiations.
“Hopefully we’ll work something out before that,” said Rooney, “But certainly if you want to say there’s a hard deadline, March 17 would be it.”
Rooney also reaffirmed the discussions regarding Roethlisberger’s future have nothing to with the quarterback’s performance, but more his hefty $41 million cap hit.
“We think Ben played at a high level last year,” Rooney said. “We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We’re still confident he has the ability to do that. His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a (competitive) team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we’re hard at work trying to make that happen.”
Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant challenge for Pittsburgh. He could forgo up to nearly $19 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed flexibility.
Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was tormented by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.
Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2. The two-time Super Bowl champion passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.