The news that everyone had been waiting for finally came on Thursday when it was reported that the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had reached an agreement on a new deal for the 2021 season.
If you’re not well versed in salary cap massaging and manipulating, you may have developed the same kind of headache that I did while trying to understand this new deal. Fortunately, BTSC co-editor Dave Schofield seems to understand this stuff far better than me, and he broke it down quite nicely on Thursday. At least I think he did. Did I accurately convey how confused this all made me?
Anyway, the CliffsNotes version is that Roethlisberger took an actual pay-cut from $19 million to $14 million for 2021 (I gotta tell ya’, I did not see that coming from the big guy). Most of that $14 million will get prorated over some voided years beyond next season (I think), and the Steelers will save $15 million in cap space for 2021.
Is that enough? I’d like to think it is more than enough of a financial sacrifice from a quarterback who appeared to have far more left in the tank than so many history revisionists are suddenly willing to admit following a rather ugly finish to what started as a promising 2020 campaign.
If it were me, and I was coming off a season in which I threw 33 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions just one year after having major elbow surgery, I would have told my bosses to stick their pay-cut where the sun did not shine and immediately signed with the Patriots following my inevitable release.
But Roethlisberger doesn’t appear to be nearly as vindictive as me. I don’t want to go overboard with my praise for the great sacrifice made by a man who has already earned over $253 million from the Steelers over 17 seasons according to Fanduel, but it has to be quite bruising to the ego when your bosses insist that you tear up an original contract and agree to make less on a new one.
Athletes don’t make it to Roethlisberger’s level without having an incredible sense of self-worth and confidence. No doubt Roethlisberger still has both in spades, but maybe his desire to go out on top overrides everything else. He’s nearing 40 years old. He’s married. He has three kids. Perhaps he realizes the only thing that matters to him now in a football sense is competing, having fun and winning one more title.
Could you imagine that story, the big guy going out on top after so many—including national pundits, local pundits and his actual fans—demanded that he do the “right thing” and walk away?
Anyway, I don’t know if a pay-cut and the $15 million savings will appease enough people. I’ve already read about the concerns over the continued salary cap can-kicking beyond 2021. But “we” don’t have to worry about that. The Steelers do. The only thing I’m worried about is next season and the team being able to put enough players around Roethlisberger to compete.
In my opinion, this new deal gives the Steelers the best chance to compete in 2021. Why? Because it saves them a lot of money, plus, they get to keep their franchise quarterback. Is Roethlisberger the same quarterback he was even five years ago? No. Is he one of the top five or 10 in the NFL today? Probably not. But he was the best one the Steelers were realistically ever going to employ in 2021.
Bottom line, Roethlisberger did all that he could do for the Steelers financially in 2021 without actually retiring. Now, it’s up to the Steelers to build a good roster around him.
As for everyone else? It’s time they stop calling on Ben Roethlisberger to do anything else but show up for training camp and prepare to fight like hell for the Steelers in 2021.