Retiring Steelers veterans could influence Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to return
By Tommy Jaggi
The Steelers have already lost one player to retirement and more could be on the way. Will this impact Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to come back?
After a disappointing end to the 2020 season, we knew that the Steelers would look very different in 2021. Pittsburgh is currently one of the most cap-strapped teams in the NFL, and they are currently estimated to be roughly $34 million in the hole, according to Over the Cap. However, there are several decisions the Steelers can make to get back into positive money.
Fortunately, some of those decisions have already been made for them. On January 22nd, Vance McDonald issued his official retirement statement to the team. Two days later, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Maurkice Pouncey informed teammates that he was ‘likely retiring.’
Pouncey would finish his decorative career with 9 Pro Bowl appearances and 2 first-team All-Pro honors. Though we can have a discussion about whether or not he was overrated, he was still an excellent former first-round pick and will likely go down as one of the better Steelers offensive linemen in the modern era.
McDonald hasn’t done much for the team over the past two years, but his 2018 season was one to remember. Though he fell short of Pro Bowl honors, he managed to catch 50 balls for 610 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he was a nightmare to bring down after the catch.
These two players combined to play 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, and it’s no secret that they were two of Ben Roethlisberger’s closest friends on the team.
Will retiring Steelers veterans influence Ben’s decision to return?
Though most believe Roethlisberger will be returning to play out the final year of his contract, this isn’t a decision that has been set in stone. With all of the changes as of late, one must start to wonder if all of these will have an impact on Big Ben’s decision for the 2021 season.
In addition to losing McDonald and Pouncey, Roethlisberger will be without Randy Fichtner – the offensive coordinator he had a hand in hiring. Now that Matt Canada has officially been hired as the new offensive coordinator, Roethlisberger may be willing to stick around. However, it’s possible that Canada will bring a whole new style of offensive to this team that desperately lacked creativity in 2020.
On top of these changes, the Steelers are far from done losing veterans. A number of high-profile names are set to hit the market like Bud Dupree, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, and James Conner. Even Ben’s safety valve in the passing game, JuJu Smith-Schuster, is very likely to sign elsewhere as Pittsburgh doesn’t possess the funds to retain him. Additionally, Alejandro Villanueva is another player who may yet opt to retire or sign with another team.
Whether Pittsburgh wants to admit it or not, this team is at the beginning stages of a rebuild, and there could end up being as many as 10 new starters on the team by next season. Ben Roethlisberger still has some time to make his decision, but with so many veteran friends who will no longer be there, retirement has to be on his mind.