The Steelers have officially ruled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the team announced in an addendum to its injure report on Friday.
Head coach Mike Tomlin had told reporters on Tuesday that Roethlisberger will not play and Mason Rudolph will start in his place.
Roethlisberger did not practice all week, with Rudolph filling in.
The Steelers’ veteran quarterback has played in all 15 games this season since returning from the elbow injury that cost him almost all of 2019.
Roethlisberger leads the NFL in pass attempts (608) and completions (399) entering the final week of the season. He’s thrown for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Rudolph, who played extensively while filling in for Roethlisberger in 2019, has played sparingly in 2020, appearing in just four games and completing three of four passes for nine yards.
Report: NFL Salary Cap Expected around $180 Million; Would Put Steelers $35 Million in Red
The 2021 NFL salary cap is expected to be around $180 million, according to a report by Mike Florio of NBC Sports.
The salary cap is supposed to be fixed at 48% of the league’s revenue, according to the CBA signed between the league and the NFLPA that went into effect in March, with a possible increase if the NFL makes the expected decision to go to a 17-game schedule this fall.
But after the COVID-19 pandemic cost teams the vast majority of ticket sales in 2020, the league’s revenue has cratered heading into this offseason. The NFL and NFLPA agreed in their return-to-play negotiations that the 2021 salary cap will not fall below $175 million.
But that figure would represent a $23.2 million salary cap decrease instead of the typically expected $10 million or so increase, putting many teams, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular, in a salary cap crunch.
Florio said that some owners would like to see the impacts of the pandemic spread out over several years of cap impacts to reduce the immediate decrease, but that other owners see that as an interest-free loan to the players and balked.
While the most desirable of free agents will likely not be impacted, the number of teams in a cap crunch would likely cause middle-tier free agents to be unable to cash in on their expected paydays and low-tier free agents could be forced to re-sign for minimal, if any, raises.
The Steelers would need to trim approximately $35 million from their current salary obligations to be compliant with a $180 million cap, according to salary cap analysis from F.S. Fisher of Steelers Now.
While the $5 million in extra room would be helpful, it would not change the fundamental approach the Steelers will have to take this offseason of restructuring, negotiating pay cuts or releasing players already under contract for 2021.
PFF Tabs Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith as 2021 Breakout Candidate
Pro Football Focus has released their breakout candidates for the 2021 season and believes Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is in for a big year.
Highsmith was thrust into the starting lineup following fellow edge rusher Bud Dupree’s season-ending injury, and showed a knack for causing disruption and making plays.
The rookie finished his 2020 campaign with 48 combined tackles, two sacks, five tackles-for-loss, six quarterback hits and an interception. According to PFF, Highsmith recorded 22 total pressures on 224 pass-rushing snaps.
With Dupree likely moving on from the Steelers in free agency this offseason, Highsmith is primed to be the Week 1 starter opposite T.J. Watt.
Elsewhere around the AFC North, PFF likes Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to have big years as well.
Packers Could Pass Steelers in All-Time Playoff Wins in NFC Championship Game
The Green Bay Packers can pass the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL record books with a win in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
The Packers and Steelers are currently tied with 36 all-time NFL playoff wins, the second-most behind the New England Patriots, who have 37.
The Packers will be playing the man responsible for most of those wins in New England, now-Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady.
Both the Packers and Patriots have a higher postseason winning percentage than the Steelers, with New England holding a 37-21 record and Green Bay 36-23, while Pittsburgh is 26-26 after a Wild Card Round loss to Cleveland this month.
None of the other top five teams, including Dallas (35-28) and San Francisco (32-30) are still alive this year. Tampa Bay has just eight playoff wins in its history, the sixth-fewest in league history.
The Buffalo Bills (16-17) and Kansas City Chiefs (14-19) are 19th and 20th in playoff wins entering their AFC Championship Game showdown on Saturday.