(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert spoke with members of the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday and the big topic for the almost 30-minute interview was whether the soon-to-be 39-year-old Ben 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 dire 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. Randy Fichtner is gone and Matt Canada is the new offensive coordinator. The 2021 Steelers' team will look drastically different from the previous year and Roethlisberger will have to decide if he wants to play another year surrounded by so much change.
"Hopefully, there is a way we could try and figure out how to do what's best for the organization and how to do what's best for Ben," Colbert said. "And hopefully, he will be able to do that and feel the same way we do. But there's a lot of work that needs to be done. Not only with Ben, but just with the whole unrestricted free agent class and our whole cap situation as well."
The Steelers are pretty much just in a holdup with Roethlisberger, as they're waiting to hear from the league on the cap number for 2021. Once they get that information, it will be easier to move forward and work with Roethlisberger on lowering his $41.25 million cap hit. Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic that he doesn't care how much he makes this year and is willing to do whatever he has to do to help the team.
"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?"
Despite struggling down the stretch last season, Colbert still thinks Roethlisberger can play at an elite level and do special things on the field.
"Going back on Ben's 2020 season, he really did do some special things," Colbert said. "In the beginning of the year, we talked about watching what he was doing because he was doing some incredible things as we were building that 11-0 record. A lot of that was him performing at crucial times in games. Down the stretch, we didn't play as good around him. We didn't play as good on defense, obviously we have talked about the running game failing us at a time of the year where the running game is critical.
"Can he still do some special things? Absolutely. Did he do that to his expectations? I think he would be the first to tell you, no. Ben cares about one thing. He cares about winning a Super Bowl. He is no different than us. When it doesn't happen, he is never going to be satisfied. Whatever team we come up with in 2021, it will be a team that we hope we are not talking about losing a first-round playoff game."