Sports | February 22, 2021 11:16 am

Ben Roethlisberger’s Future With Steelers Seems Far From Certain

Big Ben's current deal with Pittsburgh will carry a $41 million salary-cap hit next season

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger warms up before a game against the Colts.
Joe Sargent/Getty

As the NFL’s quarterback carousel continues to spin with players like Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz changing teams, another big-name QB could find himself in a new city, or out of the league entirely, next season: Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, who will turn 39 next month, helped guide the Steelers to the second-best record in the AFC last season but threw four interceptions in an ugly loss to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs that exposed how hollow many of Pittsburgh’s regular-season wins actually were.

As the Steelers prepare for next season, the team seems to be ambivalent about bringing back Roethlisberger as his current contract carries a massive $41 million salary-cap hit.

“We’d like to see Ben back for another year if that can work, but there’s a lot of work to be done to see if that can happen,” owner Art Rooney said last month. “There may need to be decisions that are made on both sides for that to happen.”

General manager Kevin Colbert echoed that sentiment last week.

“As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Colbert said. “He reiterated to us that he wants to continue to play, and we told him quite frankly we have to look at this current situation. Hopefully there’s a way that we can try to figure out and do what’s best for the organization and do what’s best for Ben. Hopefully he’ll be able to see that and feel the same way we do. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, not only with Ben, with the whole unrestricted free agent class and our whole cap situation as well.”

Reading between the lines of what Rooney and Colbert had to say, it certainly sounds like the Steelers are unclear about bringing back Roethlisberger at any price and certainly won’t be retaining him unless he agrees to take a massive pay cut.

As jarring as that might be, it actually makes a lot of sense as the Steelers have a lot of holes on their roster and are probably not going to be legitimate championship contenders next season. That being the case, it may not make sense to move forward with an aging quarterback who hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in 10 years whether he signs off on a new deal or not.

While it would certainly be odd to see Roethlisberger on another team or out of the NFL next season, he would likely be the worst quarterback in the AFC North if he returns in 2021 thanks to Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Joe Burrow (Bengals) and Baker Mayfield (Browns) being in the division.

And in general, maybe a change of scenery would be best for all involved. Hell, it worked for Tom Brady. (For the Patriots, not so much.)

“The organization won’t let multiple players walk in free agency just so Roethlisberger can go on the rocking-chair circuit with a roster that may go 7-9 in 2021 — and may set up to be worse for whoever takes over the quarterback duties in 2022,” Tim Benz writes for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Meanwhile, media and fans keep looking for a path to a warm and fuzzy parting between Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Sorry. Too late.”

If that is actually the case, we’ll find out soon as Roethlisberger is due a $15 million roster bonus on March 19. Don’t be shocked if the Steelers decide not to pay it and move on from Big Ben.

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