When the Pittsburgh Steelers look into their crystal ball, they have a looming decision to make at the quarterback position. Not anytime in the near future, hopefully, but certainly upcoming.
Ben Roethlisberger is under contract until through the 2019 season before he is set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent, or hang up the cleats and retire. Either way, the decision looming surrounds how the Steelers handle the final years of their franchise quarterback’s legendary career.
They have options.
One option is to give Roethlisberger an extension on his current contract. With two years left on his current deal, this is when the organization usually approaches contract negotiations with their quarterback.
Doing this would help alleviate some salary cap space which has built up over time and restructured deals. However, it would also keep Roethlisberger on the books longer than most would want.
Another option is to take a wait-and-see approach. Roethlisberger is 36 years-old and there is no guarantee he will keep up his current pace for the foreseeable future.
Doing this would not only give the team the chance to see how Roethlisberger is playing, as well as his health. If he, and the offensive line, do their jobs it could make the decision easier for the organization.
Lastly, the team could hedge their bets on young rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph to develop into a starter in the league, making the aging Roethlisberger expendable. It may seem hard to believe right now, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility when entering the 2020 season and Roethlisberger pushing 40 years of age.
The downfall of this decision is if Roethlisberger is still playing at a decent level, and the team feels it is time to move on and see what they have in Rudolph, Roethlisberger very well could end his career with another franchise. This would be difficult for the fan base, and would be similar to other players who have ended their black-and-gold careers in different jerseys, primarily Franco Harris and James Harrison.
With all that said, Roethlisberger isn’t currently worried about his contract status, or at least isn’t stating so publicly.
He spoke with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN at his Ben Roethlisberger football camp recently and had this to say:
“I have two years on my contract. I’m not going to be one to sit here and worry about my contract,” said Roethlisberger. “That’s not my job. My job is to play football. I’ll let my representation, the Steelers worry about all that stuff. To me, it’s all about going out and playing now. I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now. For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.”
Roethlisberger, who seems to be following the Tom Brady line of thinking when it comes to contracts and helping the team sign others, also realizes his job is to go out and win games with the best team around him.
“It’s important, too, to understand as quarterback of this team, sometimes you almost have to leave a little bit of money behind for other guys,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s not my job, that’s not my thing to worry about. That’s why I have agents.”
While Roethlisberger speaks of not worry about his contract, you have to assume it is weighing on his mind. He has spoken about wanting to retire a member of the Steelers, but will he have to follow the path of Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward by being forced into that decision?
Again, this is years away, but worth talking about as both Mason Rudolph progresses, and Ben Roethlisberger ages.