A few weeks prior to the 2018 NFL Draft taking place, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk about a possible contract extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this offseason and specifically, if he felt any urgency to get something done with the longtime signal-caller before Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, or somebody else, crosses over the $30 million per season threshold. When you now look back at Colbert’s comments on that subject now that the 2018 NFL Draft has taken place, it certainly seems obvious that the signs were there that the team would consider ultimately drafting another quarterback in the early rounds, which is something they wound up doing.
“No, I mean really, markets are markets and we’ll recognize that at the appropriate time, but the appropriate time right now is not dealing with Ben and I can’t say when that will occur,” Colbert said while in Florida for the annual league meetings. “But right now, we have to take care of some more immediate-type business and we’re pretty much through the free agency period. Let’s get through the draft, see where we stand.”
Now that the Steelers have selected former Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, he’ll at worst become the team’s heir apparent to backup Landry Jones at some point between now and 2019. He also seemingly has enough talent to potentially become the heir apparent to Roethlisberger as well, but we won’t know for sure if that will ultimately be the case for at least a few more years.
Roethlisberger, as most of you probably already know by now, is currently under contract with the Steelers through the 2019 season. Additionally, he’s mentioned since the 2017 season ended that he hopes to play at least three more seasons in the NFL. So, with all of that said, will the Steelers sign Roethlisberger to yet another contract extension between now and the start of the 2019 regular season? It’s hard to answer that question right now but at the very least, it seems unlikely right now that Roethlisberger will have a new contract in place prior to the start of the 2018 regular season.
“Again, his values have been determined by him,” Colbert added about Roethlisberger.” Of course you recognize the market, but Ben’s a great quarterback. He’s going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback and again, as long as we can have him and he still wants to play, then it’s our job to make that happen.”
Assuming the Steelers don’t sign Roethlisberger to a contract extension prior to the start of the 2018 regular season, the next golden opportunity to do so will be next February or March and likely prior to the team paying him the $5 million roster bonus he’ll be due. However, should no new contract extension be signed by then, odds will be good at that point that Roethlisberger won’t have one in place by the start of the 2019 regular season and if that’s ultimately what transpires, how he plays that season could determine if it’s his last in Pittsburgh.
Should Roethlisberger still be on top of his game in 2019, in addition to remaining unsigned long-term, the Steelers would undoubtedly be forced to place the franchise tag on the quarterback ahead of the start of the 2020 league year that March. Lord only knows what that tag amount will be by then as it figures to be around $30 million. As of right now, Roethlisberger is scheduled to earn $17 million in both 2018 and 2019 and his cap charge for both years is $23.2 million. He’ll also turn 38 just ahead of the 2020 season, the one the team might have to use the franchise tag on him for.
The drafting of Rudolph over the weekend certainly will ramp up speculation as to how much longer Roethlisberger will be in Pittsburgh. He’ll obviously be with the Steelers through the 2019 season, but how much longer past then? By the sound of things, he’ll likely be welcomed to be the team’s quarterback for several years after his current contract is set to expire.
“I’m hopeful that Ben is going to commit maybe and play about four or five, six more years. That’d be awesome,” Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said after the Steelers selected Rudolph in the third-round Saturday afternoon.
After Rudolph was drafted on Saturday, Fichtner was asked if he had talked to Roethlisberger about the team possibly drafting another quarterback this year and if not, how he thought he might react to it now happening.
“I have not in per se,” Fichtner said. “I mean, you never know for sure if these situations ever present themselves. You know, I would assume that Ben’s always gonna be mindful and thoughtful to we’re trying to take the best players that are available at that given time and in situations that, you know, he’s always respectful of that. And he’s going to love the idea of the competition. I know how he always is and it’s great for him.”
Roethlisberger, as far as I can tell, has yet to talk to the media since the Steelers drafted Rudolph in the third-round. When he finally does, it will be interesting to see his reaction to them doing so and if he’ll be asked about his current contract situation as well as the prospects of him signing an extension prior to the start of the 2019 regular season.