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Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger will discuss new contract after 2014 season

Steelers electing cap responsibility over the next season and beyond, which essentially could put Roethlsiberger to a decision on playing into the final year of his contract in 2015.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tribune Review reporter Alan Robinson had a 1-on-1 interview with Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who said he was "praying" a new deal between himself and the team he will play his 11th NFL season for in 2014 could be worked out.

Fans feel the same way.

Either way, that deal won't happen until after this year, according to Steelers' president Art Rooney II - a move that could put in jeopardy the retention of Roethlisberger beyond the end of his current contract, which expires after the 2015 season.

We did the math back in April and concluded it doesn't make great financial sense to extend Roethlisberger now.Frequent restructures of his contract have pushed enough deferred signing bonuses into these final years of his deal, and the gap between his salary ($12.1 million base) and his cap number ($18.9) is massive.

On the other hand, allowing your franchise quarterback the option of turning down any deal offered next season for a run at the open market of free agency, where Roethlisberger would likely be met with open arms by one of many quarterback-starved franchises, also doesn't make a great deal of sense.

The struggles here really come from an accounting standpoint, not a recognition of value. Roethlisberger, whether he wins the team's MVP award (he hasn't in several years), is clearly the most valuable player the team has. He's also the highest paid player it has, and has been paid out more money on his $100 million contract than any other player in history.

That money has to be accounted for, and with deferred bonus money counting for upwards of $7 million this year, another long-term deal would blast his cap number even higher this year, and next, when he actually will make less money ($11.6 million).

Put simply, the Steelers have to account for a considerably higher salary on Roethlisberger than he's getting paid. Rock, meet hard place. Giving him an extension now only widens that gap. But it's possible the team will simply make it up to him next year.

If he stays healthy, of course, and therein lies the source of Roethlisberger's discontent. The team sits with around $6 million in cap space now, and could, theoretically, work out a deal with him in a way the team's cap space wouldn't be choked off, but Ben would get a substantial amount of new money to be delivered over the life of the contract.

The Steelers are electing to go the route of cap responsibility for right now, banking on their ability to sign him (logic would suggest at a higher price if Roethlisberger is that close to free agency and has been made to toe the line of playing into the last year of his deal) next offseason.