Updated: Feb 22, 2021
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert had some interesting comments on Wednesday when he met with the Pittsburgh media regarding Ben Roethlisberger. Colbert, who has always been in his franchise quarterbacks corner when many doubted him, gave a non-committal comment on whether Roethlisberger will return for an 18th season with the team.
"As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers," Colbert said via Bob Labriola of Steelers.com. "He met with Art Rooney II, he met with Coach Tomlin, he met with me shortly after the season ended. He reiterated to us that he wants to continue to play, and we told him quite frankly we have to look at this current situation. Art addressed that with Ben's current cap number, some adjustments will have to be made. And we aren't negotiating as we sit here (today) to answer this question. Ben Roethlisberger is on the team. Ben Roethlisberger did a lot of really good things last year, and we anticipate he could still do some good things moving forward."
The Steelers' salary cap situation is grim as they're projected to be around $22 million over the cap and are most likely to lose JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree and Alejandro Villanueva in free agency. Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey have retired, both of whom are close friends and teammates of Roethlisberger. Longtime coach of Roethlisberger Randy Fichtner is gone and Matt Canada is the new offensive coordinator. The 2021 Steelers' team will look considerably different from the previous year and Roethlisberger will have to decide if he wants to play another year surrounded by so much change and uncertainty.
"When we met previously, we all agreed that we will get together again at some point once we get further down the road and have a better understanding about what free agency is and what the cap might be," Colbert said. "And from a personnel standpoint, we will have a better idea about what type of players will be available to us in free agency and how we might want to address either keeping our own or adding someone, and we will have a much better feel -- we are getting a much better feel -- for the draft class. So, all that comes together collectively, and we can have a better idea about what our team will be in 2021 and how can Ben be a part of it and make that group as good as it can be. So, it is an ongoing process that doesn't just involve him, but involves the players around him … What kind of team can he anticipate being around him if we decide we can move forward together?"
With Colbert's lukewarm response on Roethlisberger coming back for another year, it got many thinking if Roethlisberger would play for another team if the Steelers were to cut him.
The Colts traded with the Eagles for Carson Wentz yesterday, so Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk listed the Jets, Patriots, Texans (if they trade Deshaun Watson), Broncos, Raiders (if they trade Derek Carr, which seems highly unlikely), Cowboys (if they let Dak Prescott walk), Washington, Bears, Panthers, Saints, 49ers, and Seahawks (if they trade Russell Wilson, which seems highly unlikely) as potential teams that would be interested in the soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback if the Steelers were to part ways with him.
Of those possible teams, I can really only see the Saints and Washington as teams that Roethlisberger would want to play for to end his career. Those are the two teams who would give Roethlisberger the best chance to win another ring.
Florio also suggests the option of the Steelers trading Roethlisberger, but being that he turns 39 years old on March 2, it's highly unlikely that there would be a lot of suitors. It's also hard to imagine Roethlisberger playing for another team than the Steelers, but as we've seen with Philip Rivers and Tom Brady, it's not completely impossible.