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ESPN Analyst Mike Tannenbaum: Steelers Shouldn’t Bring Back Ben Roethlisberger

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With Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the team still uncertain, former general manager and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum is not sold on the 38-year-old returning in 2021.

Joining ESPN’s Get Up on Monday, Tannenbaum said the Steelers would be “stopping progress” if the bring back Roethlisberger next season. He instead believes the organization should trade up in the April’s draft to select their quarterback of the future in the first round.

Roethlisberger owns the league’s largest cap hit at over $41 million, which poses a significant problem for the cap-strapped Steelers. He could forgo up to $19 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team much needed flexibility.

Roethlisberger finished the 2020 campaign with commendable statistics, but was plagued by inconsistency, as the Steelers finished the season 1-5 after a 11-0 start.

He passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.

Roethlisberger has expressed a desire to come back, but Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert indicated last week that substantial negotiations have not begun yet, and that they will ask the 18-year veteran to take a significant pay cut.

If the Steelers are hoping to draft their heir apparent, Tannenbaum is likely correct in his assessment that they would have to trade up. With the No. 24-overall pick, Pittsburgh would probably miss out on the top quarterbacks in this year’s class.

If they do select a quarterback, it would be the first signal caller they have drafted in the first round since Roethlisberger in 2004.

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NBC’s Mike Florio Predicts Dim Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Free Agency

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Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is not so sure Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get the pay day he believes he deserves.

Florio joined The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Friday, and painted a dim picture of Smith-Schuster’s free agency prospects.

“If Juju wants to be paid like a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s going to be waiting a long, long time,” Florio said.

Smith-Schuster has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, but their dire salary cap situation had a made a continuation seemingly impossible.

Now that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract and provided the club additional financial flexibility, there may be a path for Smith-Schuster to return. Still, there will not be enough money available to pay him like one of the league’s elite wideouts. 

If that is what Smith-Schuster wants in Pittsburgh, he may be in for a rude awakening as Florio predicts.

Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns.

Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 2018.

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Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on Run Game, Roethlisberger

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Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has spoken publicly for the first time since his promotion in late January.

Canada joined the latest edition of The Standard, the Steelers’ behind-the-scenes web series, and discussed a number of topics, including fixing the run game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive philosophy.

There is no denying Pittsburgh produced the least successful rushing attack in football a season ago, averaging just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt.

Canada recognizes the Steelers need to improve significantly on the ground, a mandate he implied came down from Team President Art Rooney II.

“He’s made it very clear that that’s got to get better,” Canada said. “When all of us realized that we didn’t get it done we wanted to with our running game and all of who are here are part of that. And we’ve got to improve upon it in a multitude of ways and we’re certainly focused on it. We’re globally studying who’s running the ball well. We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been. You win up front. I believe that. We believe that. I know Coach Tomlin believes that.”

Not only will the Steelers have to better impose their will in the trenches, but Canada knows they will also have to remove the predictability that plagued them last season, especially in the passing game.

“You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re going to run it,” Canada added. “And you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re going to throw it.”

Canada also gushed over Roethlisberger, who the Steelers announced will be returning for the 2021 season on a one-year contract Thursday.

“He’s such a great competitor. He competes at everything he does and his competitive drive is so strong and so awesome to be around no matter what we’re doing,” Canada said of Roethlisberger.

He also praised the 39-year-old’s accuracy, which he believes sets Roethlisberger apart from his peers.

“And then just his accuracy. And I’ve said this to one of my buddies who’s a quarterback coach somewhere else. Young quarterbacks, I wish there was some way for them to be here and watch how he practices putting the ball in certain spots. It’s such a unique talent that he’s able to do it.”

While Roethlisberger’s new deal has provided the Steelers some much needed financial flexibility, they will still undoubtedly have some tough departures once free agency begins in earnest.

Regardless which players do or do not remain in Pittsburgh heading into the 2021 season, Canada insists his offense will be multi-dimensional and cater to whatever personnel the Steelers have on the offensive side.

“We are going through and looking at the foundation of our offense. And building an offense that will be conducive to whatever talent that we have,” Canada said. “I don’t believe you have a certain system that works and this is all we’re going to do and we have to have the players for that. We have the players we have each year. Our job is to score more points than the team we play on each Sunday.”

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Steelers Sign Center J.C. Hassenauer on One-Year Deal

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed center J.C. Hassenauer to a one-year deal, first reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.

Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.

Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.

He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.

Hassenauer played his college ball at Alabama. He made just three career starts for the Crimson Tide, with his final coming in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game, a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.

Hassenauer’s agent Blake Baratz confirmed the signing on Twitter on Thursday.

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