There is always a cloud of pessimism hanging in the sky for some fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, even amidst a Super Bowl parade—cue those who point out that it’s been a decade since the city has one of those—but the cloud was palpable for all not much more than a year ago.
That was a cloud draped in the uncertainty of the future of the quarterback position as Ben Roethlisberger, apparently sincerely, contemplated retirement. The story has significantly changed just a year later, with virtually everybody but himself talking in terms of his acknowledgement that he wants to play beyond the two years remaining on his contract.
General Manager Kevin Colbert just on Wednesday described it as “a huge lift emotionally” for him to have come out and told the team of his plans for the future, which owner Art Rooney II acknowledged as well, referencing a conversation that they had after the season was over.
Still, while the plan might be for Roethlisberger to play beyond his contract, that does not mean that an extension is imminent in the next week or so. Colbert acknowledged that to do such a deal would not be a necessity from the perspective of the salary cap, though it should not be dismissed as a possible course of action.
What is important is not what his current contract is, but rather ensuring that his remaining years on the team, whether currently on the books or not, are maximized.
“We know Ben is a franchise quarterback. Ben is a Hall of Fame quarterback”, the general manager told reporters. “We want Ben to have whatever years we have left with him. We want him to be the best, and we hope there is more than year to year. That he can go beyond the contract that he has”.
While he expressed the hope for “more than year to year” with Roethlisberger, which could potentially allude to his contract status, it more likely refers to simply the end-of-season exit meeting process.
Publicly, I don’t believe that Roethlisberger has ever outright said that he intends to play beyond the 2018 season. His public position continues to be that he wants to take his career one season at a time, because looking beyond the current season risks you not giving everything to it.
Either way, the current mental state of Ben Roethlisberger puts the Steelers in a good position, needless to say. It should prevent the quarterback position from being an immediate need for at least another couple of seasons, and it leaves open the possibility of some salary cap relief.
And who knows, knowing the competitor that he is, I would not for a second put it past Roethlisberger to play into his 40s, and at a high level. Maybe he can get a jump on the BR7 Method to prolong his physical status.