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Jumbo TE Zach Banner Becoming a Steelers Fan Favorite



PITTSBURGH — “No. 72 is reporting as eligible. 72, reporting as eligible.”

In the Steelers’ 27-14 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, referee Ronald Torbert said those words about 16 times as backup tackle Zach Banner entered the game as an extra tight end in the Steelers’ jumbo offensive package.

Each time he did, the crowd cheered. As the night went on and the Steelers running game gained traction behind the blocking of Banner, fullback Roosevelt Nix and the Pittsburgh offensive line, the cheers grew louder.

It was hard to not notice them, one of the few early bright starts in what started out as a sloppy game that looked bad for the Steelers as they fell into a 14-point hole against the winless Dolphins.

As the team’s level of play rose, the cheers grew louder. When Banner was flagged for holding in the fourth quarter, Torbert’s announcement of the penalty was greeted with a chorus of boos.

The players caught on.

“I think at one point, one of those last drives, ‘72 has entered the game, he’s eligible,’ I said, ‘Are they cheering for you?’” quarterback Mason Rudolph recalled. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah, they are.’

“He’s really happy about that.”

Banner admitted that he caught on before most.

“I realized like a lot earlier than everyone else,” Banner said. “Like first or second quarter, when it first started happening, because there was nothing else to cheer. We were losing.”

But he wasn’t going to be the first one to bring it up.

“You try not to get cussed out by your five older guys, because you don’t want to cheese,” he said. “You want to keep it serious and professional.”

But the big tackle/tight end certainly appreciated the fans’ approval. Both for him, his quirky position that involves reporting to the official every time he plays as a tight end, and the city’s entire football culture that shows an equal appreciation for the superstars and the working class heroes.

“It feels good, man,” he said. “Ultimately, this place is starting to feel like a home. It feels like home to me, but you’ve got to realize I’ve been on three teams in the matter of my first year. So that being said, you try not to get complacent, but it just feels good. Really good.”

Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Banner’s NFL career didn’t get off to the start he hoped. A fourth-round draft pick out of USC, the Indianapolis Colts cut him after one training camp. He spent his rookie season in Cleveland, but the Browns waived him in March. He was claimed by the Carolina Panthers, but released before training camp.

The Steelers didn’t sign him until Aug. 12 last year, already three weeks into training camp. But He impressed with the size, strength and power of his 6-foot-8 frame but also his willingness to put in the hard work of the daily grind of professional football.

“I wanna be here,” Banner said. “This place is awesome. The environment, the fans — as long as you work your tail off and want to be here and wear the Black and Gold, it’s awesome. … If you want to kick ass and you want to make a name for yourself and you want to be here, the guys on the team and the fans will accept you and the guys will keep you, because that’s hard to find in this league.”

There’s good news for Banner’s new-found fans, as even though almost all of his snaps this season have come as a tight end, Banner has no plans to change to an eligible number that doesn’t require reporting.

He may even put that eligibility to use at some point, but Banner wouldn’t divulge the details on if there’s a play for him in the playbook. But his quarterback said he’ll find a way to make it happen.

“We’ll get him the ball at some point,” Rudolph said with a smile.


Steelers Estimated $3.6m Under Salary Cap after New Contract for Ben Roethlisberger



The Steelers have are salary cap compliant and have an estimated $3.6 million in breathing room after renegotiating the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday, according to contract figures reported by NFL Network, salary cap data from and Steelers Now analysis.

Roethlisberger’s contract, which is technically a five-year deal, but will last only through the 2021 season before being voided will save the team $15.3 million under the 2021 salary cap.

Though the Steelers are finally in the black with regards to the 2021 salary cap, they will still likely need to make additional moves to shore up extra salary cap space. The team will need over $8 million in space to sign its 2021 NFL Draft class, the final two players for the 53-man roster and a practice squad. Only the top 51 contracts count toward the cap in the offseason.

The Steelers’ estimated $3.6 million in cap space is based on a $180 million salary cap, which is based on Steelers Now sources on several national reports. The final salary cap figure for 2021 has not yet been made official.

The team has a three contracts that can be restructured, those of defensive end Stephon Tuitt, kicker Chris Boswell and fullback Derek Watt, that could save the team around another $6 million.

The contracts of guard David DeCastro and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson could also be extended or re-negotiated. All are entering the final season of their contract.

The Steelers have two dozen pending free agents, including starters Tyson Alualu, Zach Banner, Jordan Berry, James Conner, Bud Dupree, Matt Feiler, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Alejandro Villanueva and key reserves Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. 

Starting center J.C. Hassenauer and backup inside linebackers Marcus Allen and Robert Spillane are exclusive rights free agents. Backup outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi and wide receiver and kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud are restricted free agents.

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Report: Ben Roethlisberger Took $5m Pay Cut, Lowers Cap Hit by $15m



The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed to a new contract for the 2021 season on Thursday and details of the deal are now being reported.

Roethlisberger agreed to a $5 million pay cut as part of a new contract that will technically run through 2025, with the final four seasons becoming void after 2021. 

Roethlisberger was set to earn $4 million in salary and a $15 million roster bonus for 2021, none of which was guaranteed. Instead, he will earn $1.075 million in salary, with $12.925 million converted to guaranteed signing bonus. That signing bonus will be spread over the initial five years of the contract.

That means that Roethlisberger will count for a total of $25.91 million against the Steelers’ 2021 salary cap, a savings of $15.3 million. The details of Roethlisberger’s contract were first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

After the final four years of Roethlisberger’s contract are voided, the Steelers will have $10.3 million of dead money, which will count against the team’s salary cap in 2022 or will be spread out between 2022 and 2023.

Roethlisberger, 39, had a strong season statistically in 2020, passing for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play slide as the team dropped five of its final six games.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ all-time leader in passing yards (60,349), touchdowns (396), completions (5,050) and wins (156).

Steelers Now’s Alan Saunders contributed salary cap information and graphic to this report.

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Steelers Sign Ben Roethlisberger to New Contract for 2021



The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have agreed on a new contract for the 2021 season, the club announced Thursday.

“We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,” General Manager and Vice President Kevin Colbert said. “We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same – to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.”

While exact details of the new deal have yet to be reported, it can be assumed that the two sides came to terms on a significant restructuring to have Roethlisberger’s contract fit under the team’s bloated salary cap for 2021.

Roethlisberger was set to count over $41 million towards the Steelers’ 2021 salary cap obligations prior to Thursday’s announcement.

It is also important to note that the contract is not an extension, but simply a one-year deal to keep Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh for the upcoming 2021 campaign.

“It is my greatest honor to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and give my all for this organization,” Roethlisberger said. “I am grateful to be at this stage of my career and more than happy to adjust my contract in a way that best helps the team to address other players who are so vital to our success. I love this game and love to compete, and I believe in this team and my ability to deliver when called upon. It all starts with great preparation and I am ready to go.”

Roethlisberger had a fine season statistically in 2020, passing for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play dip as the team dropped five of six games to close the year.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ all-time leader in passing yards (60,349), touchdowns (396), completions (5,050) and wins (156).

Roethlisberger turned 39 years old on Tuesday, March 2.

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