Probably because franchise quarterbacks without serious injury questions (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) rarely if ever change teams, few have taken notice of the situation in Pittsburgh, where Ben Roethlisberger is grossly underpaid and the team won’t do anything about it until 2015 at the earliest.
The situation has prompted speculation that the two sides may not be able to work out a new contract next year, which would compel the team to pay more than $22 million to keep him under the franchise tag in 2016 and more than $26 million in 2017. Which eventually could prompt the Steelers and Roethlisberger to go their separate ways.
G.M. Kevin Colbert doesn’t see that happening. In fact, he’s gone all in, telling reporters, “I don’t see any circumstances where Ben does not finish his career here,” via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
While it remains probable if not highly likely that Roethlisberger will remain in Pittsburgh, circumstances definitely exist where Ben moves on. What if he gets injured this year or next year and the Steelers aren’t willing to make a huge financial commitment to keep him, a la the Colts and Manning? What if Ben won’t accept the team’s best offer on a new deal for 2015, forcing the team to use the franchise tag until the price gets so high that they can’t afford to do it? While $22 million for 2016 could be stomached, $26 million for 2017 gets a little pricey. By 2018, when Ben would be the same age Manning was when he left the Colts (36), and the price tag for one more year will shoot to $38.1 million for one season.
Meanwhile, Roethlisberger would have made more than $70 million on a year-to-year arrangement. If he’s willing to continue to bear the injury risk, why not let it play out that way?
So, yes, there’s a way that dominoes fall that will lead to Roethlisberger walking away. Given the zeal with which Steelers fans follow the team, both sides need to tread lightly for fear of catching the blame for an eventual divorce. And, ideally, to ensure that as few Steelers fans as possible realize that a divorce, while still far from likely, could indeed happen.