As I’ve shared previously, Ben Roethlisbergeris the reason I am the Steelers’ fan that I have become. He has done so much for the organization and the fan base in his time in Pittsburgh. He is, by no means, a perfect player or a perfect person, but in bringing two Super Bowls to the Steelers he has given fans of my generation and younger their only experiences of witnessing a championship in the NFL. For those reasons, I feel Ben Roethlisberger has earned himself some special privileges as he comes to the twilight of his career.
Some may wonder why I am even bringing up the topic, but I’ve heard some very interesting suggestions as to what the Steelers need to do moving forward into the 2020 season. From moving Devin Bush to safety to cutting Cameron Heyward in order to save money on the salary cap, I’ve heard some suggestions which I have deemed unthinkable. One suggestion I’ve heard several times since his season ended in Week 2 was the Steelers should either release or trade Ben Roethlisberger.
While I do not believe the Steelers would ever consider anything of the sort, it did cause me to think about how Ben Roethlisberger’s time in Pittsburgh will ultimately come to an end. After signing an extension before the 2019 season, Roethlisberger is under contract for two more years through 2021. The contract is done in a way where if either Ben or the Steelers decided it was the end after 2020, it would not kill the salary cap. For these reasons, many have wondered if Big Ben play out the remainder of his contract.
My first instinct is yes, he will. Coming off of elbow surgery and his first time ever landing on the Reserve/Injured List, Roethlisberger has more question marks for 2020 than he has had in a long time. Even when he’s missed games to start the season via emergency surgery or suspension, his ability has never been in question. And while I hesitate to question his ability even at this point, to say it isn’t a factor would be foolish. Ben’s future in the NFL may come down to one thing: his elbow.
If Roethlisberger’s elbow is unable to recover to where he can still be a successful NFL quarterback, both he, the team, and the entire fanbase will be struck with some major disappointment. How exactly the situation would play out remains to be seen as the Steelers would be crippled by having to pay Ben’s salary while not having him available in 2020. I’m not sure what both sides would be able to do for each other, so more than anything I am hoping the situation does not arise. Purely a guess, I would assume Ben would be with the Steelers in 2020 but not beyond as the Steelers would save $19 million towards the salary cap in 2021. Just as important, I don’t think Ben could fault the Steelers for moving on if he is unable to perform next season.
If Roethlisberger’s elbow comes back strong for 2020, how is the end of his career in Pittsburgh going to play out? I, for one, think there is too much love and respect between Ben and the organization for it to not play out in everyone’s best interest.
Even if they were aware of any potential elbow problems, the Pittsburgh Steelers organization believed in Rothlisberger enough to sign him through the 2021 season. If Ben is physically able to play, I see both sides honoring the agreement before having to make an ultimate decision. What if Ben decides he wants to keep playing? What if the Steelers decided they can’t afford to sign him to another deal? I think the two sides may have to work on some middle ground as it would be difficult for the Steelers to invest even more of their salary cap into a player who may be trying to play longer than his body will allow him. In fact, they were plenty of fans who felt this way before his last extension.
I may be naïve, but I believe the Steelers know what they’re doing with Ben Roethlisberger. I also believe Ben Roethlisberger knows what he wants to do with the Steelers. Neither side wants to see Ben playing with somebody else. As a fan, do not want to see him some else either. I can’t believe some people would even entertain the notion of trading Ben away just to try to get some value out of him. Hasn’t he been valuable enough with his two Super Bowl victories? It’s not how the Steelers do business.
There are ways to do a player right and ways to do a player wrong. The Steelers are constantly doing their best to do the right thing. Yes, it was a difficult situation with Troy Polamalu when his health kept him from the same on field production he had seen throughout his career. But I still feel the Steelers tried to do things the right way.
When it comes to Ben Roethlisberger, handling the end of his career will be tricky. I’m hoping it’s something which will not need to be discussed for at least two more seasons. But coming off of the season in which Ben did not complete two games or throw a touchdown pass, the idea has to start to creep into the back of every fan‘s mind. Unfortunately, things don’t last forever. But when the end must come, I want to see Ben Roethlisberger go out in the way he wants to go out while keeping the franchise in a good position beyond Ben’s tenure.