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If Ben Roethlisberger returns, expect the Steelers to go all-in again

Will Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger return for 2021? If he does, you better believe the Steelers will try to compete. Otherwise, what would be the point of allowing him to return?

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

It’s still up in the air as to whether or not Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will come back for his 18th NFL season in 2021.

At least I think it is. I don’t know. Roethlisberger isn’t necessarily pulling a 2017, but even if he were, there are a lot of Steelers fans and media members who would be hoping for the opposite decision this time around.

Even if Roethlisberger does come back next season, the confidence in Pittsburgh parlaying that into a championship run is pretty low among many folks. The reasons are layered. For starters, you can cite Roethlisberger’s declining play as the 2020 season unfolded. Also, there’s that salary cap hell that may or may not exist for eternity (or at least until 2022).

That’s right, at this very moment, the Steelers are millions of dollars over the projected $180 million cap for 2021. That’s a lot of cans to kick down the road to get back into compliance. Who will the Steelers cut? Who will they allow to mosey on into free agency without so much as a half-hearted offer? Who will they extend into 2022 and beyond?

Lots of decisions, but I’m sure they’ll get back into compliance. After all, they really don’t have much of a choice, do they?

We knew there would be some roster upheaval heading into 2021, didn’t we? I think we knew that as far back as the last offseason. We knew players such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree and James Conner were not likely to stick around. We knew some others could see the chopping block.

I don’t think this means the Steelers can’t compete, though. After all, the defense will still be good, even without Dupree and perhaps Mike Hilton and Tyson Alualu. The receiving corps will still be fairly deep without Smith-Schuster. As for the running back position, heck, people have been calling for some improvements for quite some time.

The bottom line is the Steelers should still be able to compete in 2021, even with the expected roster turnover. And I guarantee you, the Steelers think they can compete next year. Otherwise, why bring back Roethlisberger? What would be the point? They could save $19 million by simply taking the retirement decision out of his hands and politely asking him to get on with his life’s work. I believe this would be the plan if they thought they had no real chance to compete. They would use their freed-up cap space to go about fixing other areas of their roster. In the meantime, they would likely give Mason Rudolph and the newly-acquired Dwayne Haskins the chance to see if either can be the future at the quarterback position. Heck, maybe the Steelers would select a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

What I’m saying is, the Steelers would immediately start the clock on their future if they truly believed 2021 was going to be a rough patch in their history.

You don’t need a 39-year old quarterback to help get you through a rough patch. But if you’re the Steelers and you think you still have a shot to do something next January, that 39-year old quarterback is most-likely your best chance at getting you to where you want to go.

Some things simply don’t pass the logic test, and the Steelers keeping Ben Roethlisberger around in 2021 when they don’t think they can compete is one of them.