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After discussions with the Steelers brass in Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, the Steelers signed Ben Roethlisberger to a new contract for 2021 on March 4. The 39-year-old Roethlisberger still has plenty of motivation and drive to lead the Steelers to another Super Bowl.
In order to come back, Roethlisberger had to restructure his contract and he did so by taking a $5 million pay cut. He'll make $14 million and save the team more than $15 million in salary-cap space in 2021. The new deal includes a $12.925 million signing bonus, a $1.075 million base salary and four voidable years to push a $10.36 million cap hit into 2022.
With all things considered, it appears Roethlisberger will play one more season with the Steelers and then move onto his life's work. For the time being though, Rooney has plenty of confidence that Roethlisberger will be able to play at a high level in 2021.
"I thought Ben had a very good year last year for somebody that was coming off of arm surgery," Rooney said in a conference call on Steelers Nation Unite on Thursday. "Hopefully he will have an even better year this year with another year under his belt in terms of recovering from that arm surgery. It was a very serious surgery, and we were uncertain how well he would be able to recover from it. He did a great job rehabbing and we are excited to have him back for this season."
The Steelers got off to a franchise-best 11-0 start in 2020, but they collapsed down the stretch, losing five of their last six games of the season, including an embarrassing 48-37 loss to the Browns in the wild-card game. The final score indicated a closer game than what it actually was, as the Browns got off to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and it was pretty much over by that point.
Roethlisberger didn't play well either late in the season after having a great start to the year when some considered him a league MVP candidate. In the first nine games, Roethlisberger had a 22-4 touchdown-interception ratio and had a quarterback rating over 100 seven times. In his last seven games of the season (including the playoff loss), Roethlisberger had a 15-10 touchdown-interception ratio and had a quarterback rating over 100 just once.
Roethlisberger's deep ball was also dire throughout the season and that could have been due to coming off a serious elbow surgery as Rooney suggests. Hopefully, in his second season coming off surgery, Roethlisberger's deep ball will return and the Steelers offense can be more vertical and less horizontal, as the dink-and-dunk offense under former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner last year got exposed late in the year.
JuJu Smith-Schuster averaged just 8.6 yards per catch in 2020, which ranked 126th in the league, that's how bad it was. Matt Canada as the new offensive coordinator should change that, along with Roethlisberger going through his second season after undergoing major elbow surgery.