Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Quarterbacks

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Pittsburgh Steelers have 21 players who will be unrestricted free agents when their currents contracts expire March 21. This is a feature package by Dale Grdnic providing a position-by-position look at the current players and what could occur during the upcoming months. This first story looks at the quarterbacks.

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger has two seasons remaining on the eight-year, $102 million contract he signed in March 3, 2008. The agreement had $33.2 million guaranteed with a $25.2 million signing bonus and $3 million roster bonus in 2009, along with an additional $9 million "signing'' bonus added upon renegotiation prior to the 2013 season. Roethlisberger is scheduled to make $12.1 million in 2014 and $11.6 million the following season before becoming an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2016 campaign.

The Steelers have no intention to let their franchise quarterback test the market. The two sides will each a new contract agreement long before then, but Roethlisberger isn't an immediate priority. And neither are the other two quarterbacks on the roster. Sure, a fourth arm likely will be added before training camp, to save everybody's arms for the long haul, but the there is little chance that the three current quarterbacks will change in the near future.

"What I would say about it is that we certainly expect Ben to be playing here beyond the current contract,'' Steelers president Art Rooney II said.

"When both sides are able to come together on an extension -- I don't know when that will be, and really it's too early to say as far as if it's this season or next -- but there is no doubt we look at Ben as somebody who's going to be here for the long term.

"Ben, we have to have him retire as a Steeler,'' Rooney II added. "There's not a doubt about that.''

Roethlisberger will be 32 on March 2, so depending on how the new contract is structured he should be with the Steelers well after his 35th birthday. And the window for the Steelers to return to the Super Bowl is closing with each passing season, so the roster needs to be settled -- and upgraded -- soon. At least the quarterback depth chart is settled.

Veteran backup Bruce Gradkowski signed a three-year deal March 13, 2013 for$4.95 million with an $850,000 signing bonus. He made $1 million this past season and never took a game snap. Roethlisberger took every snap at quarterback for the Steelers. Gradkowski is scheduled to make $1.55 million in the next two seasons and then become an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

Gradkowski is more than a capable backup, but he's unlikely to play if things are going well for Roethlisberger and he stays healthy. But the Steelers are comfortable if they need to put him in a game for the short term. It's also why they selected Landry in the fourth round last year. They get an older quarterback who played in a pro-style system in college. He also could be trusted in the short term, but neither will play if Roethlisberger is healthy.

The club's No. 3 quarterback, rookie Landry Jones, was deactivated for every game. His first professional contract was a four-year deal worth $2,599,220. The agreement included a $439,220 signing bonus. His annual salaries were $405,000 this past season, $495,000 in 2014, $585,000 in and $675,000 in 2016. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Jones turns 25 years old April 4 and will be 27 about a month after his rookie contract expires.

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