On Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, a $19 million question lingers

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The Steelers want Ben. Ben wants the Steelers. The Steelers need to revise Ben’s contract. Ben is willing to do it.

But still it hasn’t been done.

Although Steelers president Art Rooney II recently told Steelers.com that the deadline for getting a revised deal in place is March 17, Rooney hasn’t said publicly whether the Steelers intend to pay their long-time starting quarterback the $19 million he’s due to earn in 2021 via a restructuring that reduces his cap number, or whether the Steelers are trying to get Ben Roethlisberger to make good on his recent “I don’t care about my pay at all this year” declaration.

Roethlisberger’s camp also isn’t saying whether the Steelers are trying to get Ben to take less. But why wouldn’t the Steelers at least try?

Ben counts $22.25 million against the cap whether he’s on the team or not in 2021. Anything he earns adds to that amount. The $19 million he’s currently due to earn puts him at a cap number of $41.25 million. A restructuring that would be sparked by reducing his compensation to the minimum base salary of $1.075 million with $18.925 million converted to a signing bonus would put the 2021 cap number in the upper 20s, with the final number depending on the new years added to the deal for purposes of spreading out the signing bonus allocation.

Cutting his pay could drive it even lower than that, obviously. Until the Steelers and Roethlisberger do a new deal that entails Roethlisberger making $19 million this year, the possibility looms that the Steelers will try to get him to take less.

Apart from playing on his obvious desire to have enough cap space to allow the team to put competent teammates around him, there’s a more pragmatic question to ask: Would another team pay him $19 million this year, if he were a free agent?

Regardless of whether Ben would play for someone else, the question is whether someone else would offer him $19 million to play for that team. If the answer is no, then maybe it’s fair for the Steelers to want him to take less.

Again, this entire issue gets put to bed with a new contract that preserves his 2021 compensation package. Until then, it’s fair to wonder whether something more is happening between the Steelers and a quarterback who turns 39 in three days.

On Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, a $19 million question lingers originally appeared on Pro Football Talk