On Tuesday afternoon Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney II and that the meeting “went well,” according to his sources.
In the hours since, NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala has connected with Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, who has indicated that the Steelers “want Ben back and will contact me soon to address his cap situation.”
Tollner went on to say that the Roethlisberger camp is “happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible.”
He also indicated that Pittsburgh’s lousy finish to the 2020 season, “doesn’t sit well” with Roethlisberger, and that he believes “there is plenty of gas in the tank.”
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) February 23, 2021
The news from Tollner is something of a surprise, as in recent weeks it has seemed that the Steelers were signaling to Roethlisberger that he ought to retire, with general manager Kevin Colbert saying, “Hopefully,” Roethlisberger will “feel the same way we do.”
Meanwhile, a number of Big Ben’s former teammates—including Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor—have urged Roethlisberger to retire. For his part, Clark believes Roethlisberger has no chance of leading the Steelers back to a Super Bowl, while Taylor thinks that a Roethlisberger-led team won’t be competitive with the other clubs in the AFC North, all of whom have young quarterbacks with franchise QB potential (if not franchise quarterbacks already).
Ben Roethlisberger’s Contract and Necessary Adjustments
However, in order for Big Ben to come back in 2021, the Steelers still need to adjust Roethlisberger’s contract before the de facto deadline of March 17th. That’s when the new league year begins and when Roethlisberger’s $41.2 million salary cap charge becomes official.
At the moment, Roethlisberger is scheduled to receive a $15 million roster bonus on the third day of the new league year, plus a $4 million salary in 2021.
Most likely the team will give him a contract extension and convert his base salary and roster bonus into a signing bonus spread out over multiple ‘voidable’ years. But the most the team can reduce his 2021 cap hit to is $27.125 million.
‘Dead Money’ Will Be a Significant Hindrance in 2021
Meanwhile, the amount of “dead money” on Pittsburgh cap is likely to be dramatically higher in 2021 than in was in 2020, when eight players accounted for a little more than $9 million in dead money, led by linebacker Mark Barron and wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
For starters, recently-retired center Maurkice Pouncey is going to count $6,475,000 on the team’s 2021 cap, and retired tight end Vance McDonald will take up another $2,727,500 in cap space. The Steelers will likely need to release additional players in order to come into compliance with the 2021 salary cap, which is expected to be set at approximately $180 million.
In 2020 Pittsburgh got off to a franchise-best 11-0 start but lost of four of its last five regular season games, then finished the year with a 48-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs.
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