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Ben Roethlisberger’s extension might be trickier than most fans might realize

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to give their franchise quarterback a new contract, but it won’t be as easy as many think.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger’s extension became trickier with the passing of March 15 when he received the $5 million roster bonus outlined in his contract. The Pittsburgh Steelers like to use roster bonuses as they allow the team to restructure a player’s contract and push that roster bonus into future seasons. Such moves allow the team to create salary cap space.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback is set to make $23.2 million in 2019, the last year of his contract. Of the $23.2 million, $6.2 million is in the form of prorated signing bonus money, the $5 million signing bonus and $1.03 million of his base salary cannot be shoved into future seasons.

The Steelers are sitting with $3,137,799 according to the NFLPA public salary cap report. The team has offseason expenses that are not figured into the total, such as the incoming rookie class, 52 and 53 player, and practice squad players. The current figure is in the neighborhood of the amount of carryover money the team likes to have heading into the season with. The team needs to free up cap space one way or another.

Roethlisberger’s last contract extension yielded only $1 in cap savings with a massive $31 million signing bonus. The amount of cap savings that comes to fruition will depend on the amount of a signing bonus and the number of years the contract is extended.

If the Steelers will see any meaningful savings by turning up to $11 million of Big Ben’s 2019 base salary into a signing bonus and handing out a bigger total signing bonus than he saw in 2015, the team will need to tack on more than just two years. The more years that get tacked on the more money could end up as dead cap space if he hangs up his cleats before completing the contract or his skill set declines far enough for the team to cut him.

General manager Kevin Colbert and cap guru Omar Khan likely have a road map for the offseason planned out. Contracts they look to terminate (Morgan Burnett?), extend (Joe Haden, Javon Hargrave or Bud Dupree?), or even more players they plan on adding will all have an impact of how the duo think the structure of an extension should appear. Will they be able to get Roethlisberger and his agent Ryan Tollner to work within that structure? Is Big Ben serious about winning or being another quarterback to break the $30 million per season mark? Steelers fans will hope Roethlisberger takes a hometown discount even though he has never done so before.