The Los Angeles Chargers fired former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Ken Whisenshunt on Monday in the midst of his third season as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator.
Whisenhunt, 57, worked for the Steelers from 2001 to 2006, first as tight ends coach and then as offensive coordinator and was a part of the team’s Super Bowl XL championship team.
In 2007, Whisenhunt left the Steelers to coach the Arizona Cardinals and took the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII, where he was defeated by his former team.
The August, Georgia native and Georgia Tech alum also worked for the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets before joining Bill Cowher’s Steelers staff.
Whisenhunt was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator in 2013 and then spent two seasons as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans before returning to San Diego in 2016. He was named the PFWA NFL Assistant Coach of the Year in 2013. As a head coach, he has a 48-71 overall record.
This season, the Chargers rank 17th in yards per game and 23rd in the league in points per game despite having top-flight talents like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen. The Steelers beat the Chargers, 24-17 on Oct. 13 in Los Angeles this year.
Report: Ben Roethlisberger’s Agent Says He Will Return in 2021
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner reportedly says he will return as the team’s quarterback in 2021, according to NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Kinkhabwala tweeted Tuesday she had spoken with Tollner, who confirmed the Steelers want Roethlisberger back in the fall, and will soon reach out to his agent to rectify his massive cap hit.
“As we’ve shared since the season ended, we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible,” Tollner told Kinkhabwala. “A year ago, Ben wasn’t sure if he could throw again, but he battled back to get 12 wins and the 8th division title of his career. They lost steam down the stretch and that doesn’t sit well for him, so the fire burns strong and there is plenty of gas in the tank.”
Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant obstacle for the Steelers. He could forgo up to nearly $18 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed breathing room.
Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was plagued by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.
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.
Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2.
Report: Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Met to Discuss Future
The Pittsburgh Steelers met with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to begin discussions on his contract situation for the 2021 season, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney II and the meeting “went well,” according to Dulac.
The two sides had not come together to discuss Roethlisberger’s future since just after the end of the 2020 season in January.
Rooney and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert have said that Roethlisberger and the team will need to come to an agreement on contract modifications that will reduce his salary cap hit for the 2021 season.
Roethlisberger is currently set to cost more than $41 million toward the team’s salary cap in 2021. Of that, almost $19 million is able to be modified through either a salary reduction or an extension to move some of that money to 2022 or beyond.
The Steelers are approximately $12.4 million above a projected $180.5 million salary cap, according to a Steelers Now estimate. The official salary cap for the 2021 has not yet been released, but is expected to be between $180 and $185 million, according to Steelers Now sources. NBC Sports reported on Tuesday that it could come it at $182-183 million.
The Steelers will need to be under the maximum salary by March 17. Reducing Roethlisberger’s cap hit is just one of several ways the Steelers can get under the cap figure.
They can also restructure more contracts, as they did with defensive tackle Cam Heyward on Monday, but restructuring alone will not solve the cap issue.
Steelers Remain $12 Million Over Salary Cap after Cam Heyward Restructuring
The Pittsburgh Steelers remain an estimated $12.4 million dollars over the 2021 salary cap after restructuring the contract of defensive lineman Cam Heyward, according to salary data from OvertheCap.com and analysis by Steelers Now cap expert F.S. Fisher.
The restructuring of Heyward’s contract, along with the retirements of tight end Vance McDonald and center Maurkice Pouncey since the end of the 2020 season, has the Steelers down to $197.8 million of salary obligations for 2021, Steelers Now estimates.
The 2021 salary cap has not yet been set. It will be no less than $180 million after the NFL and NFLPA reached an interim agreement last week. The Steelers will roll over $4.95 million of unused cap space from 2020 over into the new year.
Steelers Now’s estimate that puts the team at $12.4 million in the red is based on a salary cap of $180.5 million. NBC Sports reported on Monday that the cap is expected to be between $182 and $183 million.
The team must get under the salary cap maximum by March 17, which is the start of the new league year, but the team’s salary cap woes won’t be finished at that point. The team must also make enough room to sign the 2021 rookie class and to fill the final two spots on the 53-man roster, as only 51 salaries are counted in the offseason. The Steelers will likely need at least an additional $8 million to accomplish all of that.
The Steelers only have a couple more contracts that they can restructure in a similar fashion to Heyward’s. Re-working the deal of defensive end Stephon Tuitt could save $4.2 million, kicker Chris Boswell could save $1.2 million and fullback Derek Watt $1.1 million.
Other savings will have to either come from re-negotiated contracts, where the team convinces a player to take a pay cut, contract extensions, or outright releases.