It looks like it’s going to be one more ride (at least) for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers have officially made the decision to bring back their longtime franchise quarterback, the team announced earlier this week.
Roethlisberger took a pay cut from $19 million to $14 million in this last year of his contract, and spread the payment through 2022, which will allow the Steelers to save over $15 million that they desperately need, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Though Pittsburgh didn’t give official specifics of Roethlisberger’s deal, it was generally known that the future Hall of Famer was ready and willing to tweak and reduce his salary and overall cap hit—which was at an astronomical $41 million for this season—to give the team some breathing room under a COVID-reduced salary cap, the only question was whether the Steelers really wanted their signal-caller of 18 years to return.
That question has been answered with Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert’s statement.
“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 Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “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.”
Big Ben sounds like he couldn’t be more excited to play another season and go out with a little bit more dignity than he had at the end of his team’s woeful Wild Card loss to the division-rival Cleveland Browns in January.
The team also issued a statement from the quarterback.
“It is my greatest honor to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and give my all for this organization. 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 address other players who are so vital to our success,” Roethlisberger said. “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.”
Last season, Roethlisberger was coming off major surgery to his throwing elbow in September of 2019 and seemed as though he was no worse for the wear, leading the Steelers to an 11-0 start while getting some MVP consideration.
The bottom fell out after that, however, with Pittsburgh losing five of their last six games largely due to an ineffective offense led by a turnover-prone Roethlisberger, a run that was punctuated by a five-turnover performance from the 39-year-old in their Wild Card loss to the Browns.
Many questions arose after that performance as to whether the team wanted Roethlisberger back for another run at all, much less at that ballooned $41 million cap hit with a reduced salary cap due to COVID. Team brass did not shy away and were frank about the situation after the season: they’d like to have Ben back, but there was no way he could come back on his current contract.
The return of Roethlisberger definitely gives the Steelers a better chance to repeat as AFC North champs than they would’ve had without him, though currently they still sit in third on the odds table on 888sport with +275 NFL odds to take the division behind the Browns (+187) and the favorite Ravens (+110). That seems a realistic objective, but their odds to win the Super Bowl don’t seem great considering the talent they’ll be forced to cut because of this lowered salary cap.
With this restructure and pay cut for Big Ben, the Steelers are nearing cap compliance ahead of the official start to the new league year on March 17th, but there is still much for the franchise to do to field a competitive team in 2021.
They still need to restructure some contracts or cut veterans to become cap compliant, which makes re-signing high-value free agents like Juju Smith-Schuster and Bud Dupree next to impossible and signing outside talent an afterthought.
The best chance the Steelers will have at a Cinderella run in 2021 is if they find two outstanding offensive lineman and a running back in the early stages of this April’s NFL Draft that can contribute immediately. Keeping the defense relatively healthy for a season would be ideal as well.