When it comes to contracts, the Steelers have one very clear rule: Once the regular season starts, no new deals will be done.
For quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has two years left on his current long-term contract, that means there’s not much time to get the kind of raise he surely covets, especially in light of the current quarterback market.
Despite a cap number of $18.895 million, Roethlisberger will earn only $12.1 million in 2014. And while I often follow the word “only” with an “(only?)” when throwing around numbers like that, as quarterbacks go Roethlisberger is grossly underpaid.
Plenty of other guys who haven’t played nearly as long nor accomplished nearly as much have broken the $20 million-per-year barrier. Roethlisberger meanwhile carries the risk of injury (which is quite high given his age and playing style) while waiting for a deal that reflects the current state of the franchise-quarterback market.
The Steelers are content to carry a cap number bloated by multiple can-kicking restructurings, knowing that the next contract will cost them plenty of money. And while they’ll extend quarterback deals with two seasons left, there’s been no indication of progress on a retirement contract for Roethlisberger.
It doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. Both sides have remained largely quiet about the status of talks, a truce of sorts after a series of reports last season from the league’s in-house media operation suggested Roethsliberger may want out of town. That prompted the player to declare he’ll never leave — and it prompted some (me, at least) to wonder whether the Steelers leaked the story, knowing that Roethlisberger would react by professing the kind of commitment to the Steelers that could make it easier to get him to accept something much less than a market-value deal.
If it worked, no one knows. And no one likely will know until a deal gets announced and then the numbers are dissected to see whether he signed a Tom Brady-style “take one for the team” contract that pays out $30 million to sign — or whether Roethlisberger accepted a Colin Kaepernick-level contract that continues to underpay the player as the market is poised to explode, fueled by a new trend of annual salary-cap spikes.