Steelers owner Art Rooney II: 'We would like to have (Ben Roethlisberger) back,' but contract will be redone

Nate Davis
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To the degree there was any mystery about Ben Roethlisberger's future in Pittsburgh — at least for 2021 — an expected resolution appears to be quickly crystallizing.

Steelers owner and president Art Rooney II released a statement Wednesday morning that read: 

"Ben Roethlisberger and I met yesterday morning and we had a productive meeting. We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go. Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship. 

"We both understand that the next step is to work out Ben's contract situation."

Steelers president Art Rooney II, right, talks to QB Ben Roethlisberger and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

That means lowering Big Ben's $41.25 million salary cap figure for the 2021 season, especially onerous since the Steelers still need to cut about $19 million, per Over The Cap, to be compliant once free agency and the new league year begin March 17. Roethlisberger is owed a $4 million base salary this season and a $15 million roster bonus. He could choose to take a pay cut, or the sides could agree to extend his deal — whether the soon-to-be 39-year-old plans to continue playing or not — for the primary purpose of financial relief.

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Pittsburgh won the AFC North in 2020 on the strength of an 11-0 start, but lost five of its final six games, including an embarrassing wild-card ouster at Heinz Field courtesy of the division rival Cleveland Browns — a team that hadn't previously won a playoff game since 1994.

The Steelers have several prominent pending free agents, including running back James Conner, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, offensive lineman Matt Feiler, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and edge linebacker Bud Dupree, who played under the franchise tag in 2020 but tore an ACL in December. The club's current financial conundrum will make it challenging to keep any of those players, much less pursue free agents like J.J. Watt, brother of Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt and fullback Derek Watt.

Roethlisberger, a first-round pick in 2004, played reasonably well last season, his first since coming back from surgery to reattach three torn flexor tendons in his throwing elbow — an injury that limited him to two appearances in 2019. He threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2020, but was less effective during the team's season-ending skid — throwing five INTs in December and another four in the postseason loss to Cleveland. He was also far more reliant on quicker, shorter throws and rarely gave glimpses of the player who so famously shrugged off defenders and extended plays during his prime.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

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