Following a year filled with drama, it is quite nice at least that we don’t have to spend the offseason at the edge of our seats about the imminent collapse of a championship window for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is largely tied to the continued presence and high performance of their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
Following last year’s evident flirtation with retirement, he has already said publicly that he will return in 2018, and privately that he would like to play at least three more seasons. The latter comment was recently confirmed by one of his closest teammates, center Maurkice Pouncey, under whose butt his hands have spent more time than anybody’s—even if he primarily lines up out of the shotgun now.
But the point is that these new bits of information have opened up the conversation about the possibility of Roethlisberger even being given a modest extension to his contract. He has two years left on a four-year extension that he signed in 2015. Adding even one more year to his deal—to give it three years—could lower his cap hit.
And it would be a deal that has to occur relatively quickly if they want to maneuver a $5 million roster bonus that will be due in a month or so. Needless to say, they would probably want to get it done before free agency hits anyway, and would probably have to do it—or several other things—to give Le’Veon Bell the franchise tag.
The whole conversation has not been lost on Roethlisberger, who does understand that the quarterback position holds a unique place within the game, and thus within the salary cap. There is arguably no position in which there exists a more fixed pay scale than at quarterback, with each new quarterback due a new extension deemed a ‘franchise’ piece getting just ever so slightly more or less than the previous top contract.
Roethlisberger’s most recent extension placed him right in line with what quarterbacks were being given at that time, though just two years later the stakes have already risen significantly, with Matthew Stafford currently the money king. It will be interesting to see what type of money Drew Brees is given, as that would likely be a better barometer.
The quarterback joked with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler last week during the Pro Bowl that perhaps it was time for his position to have its own salary cap, reflecting the reality that franchise quarterbacks consume a substantial portion of the cap space teams have available to them. Even as the cap continues to rise, it still is a major chunk of cap change.
“I’m not going to sit there and say certain guys aren’t deserving of it, whether it’s on our team or other teams”, he weighed in on quarterback salaries. “There are quarterbacks in this league that have been very, very good. There’s been some that maybe haven’t produced as much, but when teams feel they have a franchise quarterback, they are going to pay him as they feel is necessary. There’s nothing wrong with that. Each team kind of has their own right to do that”.
The Steelers are among those teams who are fortunate enough to be in a position to exercise that right. They already have him for at least two more years, and in the past they have given quarterbacks extensions with more than a year left on their deal, so it is possible that we see it this year, and relatively soon.