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Decisions due to the Steelers' salary cap position loom as season hits midway point

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is both able-bodied and high-priced. With additional help brought in this offseason, the Steelers look to face difficult cap-related questions this offseason. Some players have just half a season to prove their worth.

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It's never too early to breach the subject of Ben Roethlisberger's future in Pittsburgh. Tribune-Review's Alan Robinson gets in on the ground floor in Sunday's edition, bringing up the reminder the Steelers brought in a second salary cap guru, presumably with the idea of straightening out the team's cap position for next year and beyond.

Roethlisberger's cap number rules all.

Samir Suleiman was brought in this offseason to help figure the Steelers' future salary caps in conjunction with Omar Khan. The last time Suleiman was relevant, he was advising reporters of his virtue and danger - or more specifically, he's not a back-stabber, he's a throat-slasher.

Fitting, because "slashing" may be the exact legacy Suleiman leaves in Pittsburgh.

Robinson projects a bleak salary cap position for the 2014 season, which is certainly fair and common news. The current numbers don't include several aspects to it, such as offensive tackle Levi Brown, who absolutely will not be on the Steelers' roster for $6.25 million. That figure, though, is what's being projected for next year.

Robinson does add in the hard cap hit of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be on the team next year, and touches on the possibility of whether he will get an extension - more to the point, how much it will be worth.

Considering Roethlisberger has received more money off one contract in NFL history, one might think he would be more amenable to accepting an extension that's similar to the deal his Week 9 quarterback adversary, Tom Brady, took with the Patriots last year.

While Brady received lower than market value with a three-year extension on a four-year deal he signed in 2011, a substantial amount of it is guaranteed over those seasons. Roethlisberger's deal has been restructured so many times, he's received roughly 70 percent of the total amount with two years remaining. It's a way for the team to simply cut out the middle man and pay him what they normally would, but without the bonus money being spread over the cap.

We've mentioned as well the unlikelihood of Troy Polamalu playing with a $10.88 million cap number next year. Over $8 million of that is in his base salary, which isn't guaranteed. He carries a $2.6 million dead money figure - whether he's on the roster or not, he will count $2.6 million against the cap. Figuring out an extension that would add new money - albeit less money - could drop his cap number to half of what it currently is.

If he doesn't, it's likely the end of Polamalu in Pittsburgh.

The recent restructure of Ike Taylor's contract is a near certain sign of the team's willingness to give Taylor a rare fourth contract in Pittsburgh. Again, it's more new money for Taylor, who may not get much, if any, more playing somewhere new at the age of 34. He's played well to this point, and always kept himself in outstanding physical shape. He broke his leg making a highly athletic play to knock a pass away from Baltimore's Torrey Smith last season. Otherwise, he hasn't missed a game since 2006.

These aren't easy moves to make, but they're ones the team will look at this offseason.

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