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Ben Roethlisberger wants to return to Steelers, doesn't care about 2021 salary

Liz Roscher
·3-min read

Since the Pittsburgh Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs in the wild-card round on Jan. 10, we haven’t heard from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about what his plans are for next season. On Thursday, we got our first news about his future.

In a Zoom call with the media, Steelers president Art Rooney II revealed that Roethlisberger wants to come back next season. Roethlisberger later confirmed that, and then he went even further: he’s willing to restructure his salary so the Steelers can welcome him back and field a competitive team at the same time.

Rooney: Big Ben can return, but only with a pay cut

"Ben wants to come back," Rooney said via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor. "We've left that door open.”

It’s not one-sided; Rooney said that he and the Steelers want Roethlisberger to come back. There’s one big problem: the salary cap.

"I think we've been up front with Ben in letting him know that we couldn't have him back under the current contract,” Rooney said. “I think he understands we have some work to do there. We'll have more conversations internally, and we'll have more conversations with Ben, and we'll have to know what the cap number is to finalize some of those decisions."

No one knows what the cap number will be for the upcoming season, but one thing everyone knows is that it will shrink due to the drop in revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic. Roethlisberger carries an enormous $41.2 million cap hit next season, and Rooney said that he can’t return to the Steelers on that contract.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 14: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a television interview after a regular season game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 14, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger doesn't care about his 2021 salary as long as he can return to the Steelers. (Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)

Big Ben is fine with any salary in 2021

In order for Roethlisberger to return without harming the Steelers’ ability to field a team, he would have to take a pay cut; $22,250,000 of his contract has already been pro rated, so $19 million is left over for any restructuring. That doesn’t leave a lot for the Steelers to play with, so it’s possible they could sign him to a restructured extension (similar to the one Drew Brees signed last year) that pushes some of the cap hit onto the 2022 season.

Rooney emphasized that they’ll need to have conversations with Roethlisberger about the salary massaging they need to do, but it looks like some of that work is already done. Big Ben said Thursday afternoon that he doesn’t care about his 2021 salary and is willing to restructure his contract to make it work for the Steelers.

Rooney said that he wants to give Roethlisberger a chance to end his career on his own terms, and it looks like Big Ben is on board with doing whatever it takes to make that happen.

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