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Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Restructure Contract; Could Save Nearly $10 Million in 2020 Cap Space

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The Steelers have restructured the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, potentially the largest in a series of moves to create salary cap space for the 2020 season, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

By restructuring his contract, Roethlisberger could help the Steelers save as much as $9.975 million against the 2020 salary cap.

Roethlisberger, 38, was set to have a $33.5 million cap hit in 2020 in the first season of a two-year contract extension that he signed in 2019. They can convert up to $7.45 million of salary into signing bonus and restructure the bonuses to create additional salary cap space.

However, such a move to maximize salary cap savings in 2020 would leave Roethlisberger with an over $41 million salary cap charge for 2021.

The restructuring of Roethlisberger’s contract is the largest and latest in a series of moves by the Steelers to create salary cap space for the 2020 season. They also restructured the contracts of cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Joe Haden, kicker Chris Boswell and tight end Vance McDonald .

Additionally, the team released released linebackers Mark Barron and Anthony Chickillo and wide receiver Johnny Holton on Monday. On the same day, guard Ramon Foster announced his retirement.

After missing almost all of the 2019 season with an undisclosed right elbow injury that required surgery, Roethlisberger is expected to be able to return to full health in advance of the 2020 season, with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert suggesting that a healthy Roethlisberger in 2020 could be even better than he had been in 2018 and 2019 with time to fully heal.

“Physically, he should be better,” Colbert said at the 2020 NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February. “The arm, who knows, the arm could be stronger coming out of this surgery. Again, you never know the extent of an injury, When it happens, it happens, but how long was it bothering him without him even knowing?”

Baseball pitchers that undergo Tommy John surgery on their ulnar collateral ligament frequently see an increase in velocity after returning from the injury.

Roethlisberger had a career year statistically in 2018, leading the NFL in passing attempts, completions, yards and yards per game. But he also led the NFL with 16 interceptions and his passer rating of 96.5, while good, was below the heights of his career.

In a game and a half in 2019, he was largely ineffective, completing 56.5% of his passes and throwing for a 66.0% passer rating before succumbing to the injury in the first half of the Steelers’ Week 2 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ passing game faltered under backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. The Steelers finished 31st in the NFL in passing yards after finishing second in 2018.

The Steelers’ first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Roethlisberger is one of the most accomplished players in team history, leading the NFL in passing twice and he has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times in addition to his two victories as a Super Bowl starting quarterback.

The elder statesman of the team, Roethlisberger said in 2019 that he intends to play out the end of his contract through the end of the 2021 season, but has not released any specific plans for after that or how long he intends to play.

Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North

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It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.

But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.

NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”

Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.

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