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 .
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.