The Steelers are going to be looking for their future franchise quarterback soon, but here’s why Ben Roethlisberger’s recent statement could buy them some time.
We all know that it’s just a matter of time before Ben Roethlisberger hangs up his cleats for good. After 16 incredible seasons and a Hall of Fame resume that includes 6 Pro Bowl appearances and 2 Super Bowl wins, Steelers fans are bracing themselves for the end of one of the best eras in the history of the franchise.
However, some recent comments from Roethlisberger himself suggest that the end may not be as close as many fans think.
Despite being a 38-year-old passer coming off a season-ending elbow injury, the star quarterback hinted at playing much longer. According to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, Roethlisberger stated in an interview that “I still want to win Lombardis, and I say that with a plural.”
This could be Roethlisberger just being overly optimistic, as the veteran quarterback does have two years remaining on his current contract. However, this could also mean he believes he has several more years left in the tank.
It has been rumored this offseason that the Steelers could soon offer Roethlisberger yet another contract extension. This makes sense for a number of reasons. For starters, if Ben truly does want to continue playing, the Steelers could lock him up to a deal now. Next year, the salary cap could drop to as low as $175 million. With Ben set to make $41.25 million in 2021, according to Over the Cap, this means that his cap hit alone would take up over one-fifth of the team’s total cap space.
In addition, the Steelers have several stars and many other quality players set to hit the market after the 2020 season. Among the most notable names are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Heyward, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, James Conner, Mike Hilton, and Matt Feiler. Giving Roethlisberger an extension would allow the Steelers to push more money into the future and possibly retain a few of these quality players that would otherwise have the option to sign elsewhere next offseason.
Though it’s impossible to say for sure whether or not Ben plans to play beyond the 2021 season, his statement suggests that he still has more left in the tank than people realize.
Unfortunately, while Ben may want to keep on playing for years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he will continue to do so at a high level. Prior to his sesaon-ending elbow injury, we were starting to feel the effects of his old age. Though Ben led the NFL in passing in 2018, his efficiency numbers in nearly every department were in the middle of the road in terms of NFL passers, according to PlayerProfiler.com. As he continues to near his 40s, there’s no evidence to suggest that his play won’t continue to fall off.
As of now, there’s no question that Ben Roethlisberger gives the Steelers the best chance of winning. Let’s hope he’s as healthy as he claims to be. If he truly can return to form, perhaps we could see him bring another Lombardy trophy to Pittsburgh before his career reaches its end.