Could Ben Roethlisberger be released if he doesn’t take a pay cut?

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Art Rooney II recently made some comments about Ben Roethlisberger’s cap numbers in 2021. Here’s why releasing the Steelers QB isn’t out of the question. 

There have been so many different opinions about what the Steelers should do with Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, and the Pittsburgh fan base seems to be split right down the middle. On one hand, fans argue that this team is talented enough to make one more run and that Big Ben gives them the best chance of winning in 2021. On the other, fans who don’t believe the nearly 39-year-old quarterback can win a Super Bowl at this point and want to move on.

The only thing that really matters here is what Pittsburgh’s brass decides with Roethlisberger. Fortunately, owner and president Art Rooney II shed some light on the situation on Thursday afternoon. According to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, Ben Roethlisberger wants to come back, but Rooney admits that they can’t bring him back at his current salary number:

Over the Cap has Roethlisberger’s cap number at $41.25 million in 2021 – making his cap hit the single highest in the NFL next season. For a player who has noticeably declined over the last few years and finished near the bottom of the league in advanced passing statistics, according to, this isn’t something the Steelers should be okay with.

What choices do the Steelers have with Ben?

If Roethlisberger is to return for another season, it’s sounding increasingly likely that he will have to take a sizeable pay cut. This isn’t something that would be impossible to get done, but we just don’t see it happen that often. Obviously, nobody can justify Ben’s outrageous cap hit in 2021, and Art Rooney knows that.

If for some reason, Ben is unwilling to comply, the Steelers could force his hand: either persuade him to retire this offseason or threaten to cut him loose. Though Roethlisberger has a Hall of Fame resume, I’m not convinced that there is a team in the league who would sign him to be a starting quarterback next season. His play drastically declined over the final six games of the season, and most teams in need of quarterbacks are going to be looking to rebuild, not bring in a passer who is pushing 40.

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While it seemed like Roethlisberger was going to be Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback in 2021, that is looking like less of a lock at this point. Stay tuned to see how this unfolds.