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The most important contract extension in 2021 is Ben Roethlisberger

If the Steelers can't figure out a way to spread out Big Ben’s massive cap hit you can kiss goodbye a plethora of contributors

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected just about everything involving the 2020 NFL season, and the shock wave probably will affect the 2021 season as well. Without the money earned from the stadium gate revenue the 2021 salary cap is predicted to take a huge hit.

Original expectations had the salary cap growing to around 210 million dollars in 2021, but due to the conditions of the pandemic the salary cap is facing a $23 million dollar reduction from 2020, and sit around 175 million.

The Steelers already have their hands tied because of a very long list of contributors on expiring contracts. Just take a look at some of these names:

Cameron Heyward
Bud Dupree
JuJu Smith-Schuster
James Conner
Mike Hilton
Matt Feiler
Alejandro Villanueva

Plus 31 more players on the current roster have expiring deals.

Teams typically have to deal with free agent losses on a yearly basis. But if the cap is set at 175 million the Steelers might not be able to re-sign ANY of them. Plus, they'd still have to cut a number of players to become cap compliant AND find space to sign the 2021 draft class. Which will be easier said than done, because the Steelers are currently sitting at -$17 Million in cap space (yes, that's negative).

When it comes to cap relief, the Steelers can go about this in a number of ways. But basically everything starts with Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback has a gigantic cap number of $41.25 million dollars, by far the largest on the team. Cutting Roethlisberger really isn't an option either because although it saves $19 million, it also leaves behind $22 million in dead space, and, oh yeah, you don’t have your future hall of fame quarterback on the roster anymore.

But what is possible and, in all honesty, a necessity is signing Roethlisberger to a contract extension. According to Over the Cap, the Steelers could save $14,340,000 by extending Ben Roethlisberger and turning his 2021 base salary into a signing bonus. It still isn't enough to get the Steelers out of the red, but the deal would provide massive relief and save the organization from having to cut even more players from the roster.

The biggest question remains will Ben Roethlisberger want to sign an extension? Considering he said he wants to win multiple Lombardis before he hangs up his cleats, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility.

If the Steelers and Roethlisberger can't reach an agreement, the organization will be forced to make some really tough decisions. For starters, both Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald have small dead money hits compared to what they'd save, but they are the top two tight ends. Cutting David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey would save over $8 million each, but they're impact starters on the offensive line, and both Joe Haden and Steven Nelson save more than $7 million each if they're cut, but they project to be a top corner duo across the NFL.

The loss of talent facing Ben Roethlisberger in the event he doesn't sign a new deal, might pressure the 38-year-old pivot into a new contract. Because, Roethlisberger alone isn't winning this organization multiple more Lombardis.

This will be Kevin Colbert’s career defining offseason if he can figure out a way to keep the band together, but fans need to be prepared for a mass exodus of talent in the 2021 offseason.

The silver lining? Most of the NFL is facing the same situation.

The ugly realization? The New England Patriots have $61 million in cap space and are likely going to sign a load of talent at discount prices...

What do you think? How will the Steelers maneuver the seemingly dire situation? Let us know in the comments below!