Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s return to the Steelers wasn’t a sure thing when the team’s season came to an end against the Browns in the Wild Card round and team president Art Rooney II said on Thursday that it remains an open question.
Rooney told reporters that Roethlisberger has expressed an interest in returning for his 18th season in Pittsburgh and that the team has the same interest. It’s not a done deal because Rooney added that something needs to be done about Roethlisberger’s $41.25 million cap hit before they can move forward.
“I don’t want to go too far down that road because we have a lot of discussions internally and with Ben. Salary cap and Ben’s contract is a big factor in where we go. That’s as much as I can say,” Rooney said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
As PFT pointed out at the end of the Steelers’ season, Roethlisberger is due a $4 million salary and a $15 million roster bonus on the third day of the 2021 league year. That doesn’t leave much relief via a pay cut, so an extension would likely be the simplest way for the Steelers to free up the cap room they’d need to keep the status quo at quarterback.
Such an extension could include dummy years that spread out the cap hit while still making it viable to move on from Roethlisberger after the 2021 season without as much dead money as the $22.25 million they’d swallow by cutting him this year. They’d be on the hook for the same amount if Roethlisberger were to retire.