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



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.


James Conner Surprises Dad with New Truck



One major goal athletes set out to achieve in their career is to be able to give back to those who raised them and helped them. Steelers running back James Conner was able to do that in a big way when he was able to buy his father a truck.

Conner tweeted a video of the entire exchange and moment. Mr. Conner, and that’s referring to James’ dad, was shocked, even going as far as to start handing his son the keys to the truck, assuming it was actually his. James made sure to let his dad know the new truck was a gift. While it’s unclear the exact model of the truck, it’s clearly all black and said to be a new 2020 edition.

The whole Conner family can now drive the truck down to Heinz Field to watch James and the Steelers play next season (if fans are allowed, of course). And who knows what kind of gift James may buy for his loved ones if he can take his game to another level and earn a new contract, something James has been vocal about hoping is with the Steelers. 

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Roethlisberger, Gronkowski Co-Favorites to Win Comeback Player of the Year



Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski are co-favorites to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year at +400.

Roethlisberger played just two games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending elbow injury against the Seattle Seahawks.

Entering his 17th season, Roethlisberger should be primed for success this season with the help of a reloaded receiving core that added former Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron and Notre Dame-product Chase Claypool at wideout.

Roethlisberger would be the second Steelers quarterback to take home the hardware. Tommy Maddox was awarded the honor back in 2002.

Gronkowski is not returning from an injury, but the former All-Pro tight end is making a comeback all the same.

Gronkowski ended his retirement after just one season to reunite with quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. One of the biggest mismatches in NFL history, Gronkowski’s 79 touchdown catches are tied for the third-most ever by a tight end.

If he were to win, Gronkowski would join quarterback Chad Pennington as the only other player to win Comeback Player of the Year twice. He won it previously in 2014.

Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt has the next best odds at +600.

The best odds in the division behind Roethlisberger belong to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green at +1000, fourth-best overall.

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Steelers Coaches Return to Team Facility



With the NFL announcing that coaching staffs can return to team facilities, the Steelers wasted no time getting back to work.

Steelers coaches, including head coach Mike Tomlin, returned to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Friday morning.

With Pennsylvania switching over to the “Green Phase” of its COVID-19 reopening plan Friday, the Steelers were one of the organization permitted to welcome back their staffs, but only if they adhere to local and state guidelines.

The team shared a few photos of Tomlin entering the facility, including an image of the 14-year head coach getting his temperature taken in the lobby. Daily checks are clearly part of the league’s protocols with regards to reopening.

To this point, the bulk of the NFL’s offseason has been conducted remotely, including the Draft and free agency.

Tomlin is most likely excited to return to some sense of normalcy. He discussed how challenging the adjustment had been on a conference call last month.

“We face a lot of challenges, my mentality, and the group mentality is going to be they are challenges that everyone faces,” said Tomlin. “From that standpoint it’s going to be fair and the playing field is going to be level. We have to be light on our feet. There is going to be a period of adjustment from a scheduling standpoint as we gain our footing in terms of logistics of what day-to-day looks like and things of that nature.”

“The entire National Football League will be going through it and I just think if we perform relatively better than others, we put ourselves in position to be that team at the end of the journey. That is always our mentality regarding the start of a season.”

The only team employees that had previously been allowed in facilities were athletic trainers and rehabbing players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet announced when all player will be permitted to return, but did note in his memo to clubs Thursday that the league is first attempting to finalize their COVID-19 testing program.

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