Most of the offseason has seen Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger serve as a punching bag, both for former teammates and for members of the media who have no first-hand knowledge of him whatsoever.
I’m sure it was a tough storm for him to weather, having to bite his tongue while current and former players who know nearly nothing about him speak about his personality, his leadership, and the type of person that he is.
But the Steelers have begun to circle the wagons in recent days with the start of the annual league meeting, where we often hear from the brass for the first time. We already heard General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin come to Roethlisberger’s defense. Yesterday was President Art Rooney II’s team.
“I think Ben’s record speaks for itself”, he told Missi Matthews after voting on rule changes yesterday at the meeting. “He’s been a great player for us for a long time now, so it’s not hard to understand why people are standing up for him, and we’re looking forward to him continuing to perform at a high level for several more years, and actually looking forward to getting back on the field in the near future”.
Roethlisberger, having recently turned 37, is due for a contract extension this offseason. Most believed that it would have already been done by now, particularly because he had a $5 million roster bonus that was due over a week ago, but with that soft deadline passed, it may take into the summer to get done.
But it surely will, naturally, and it will include at least two added years that would take him through his age-39 season. I’m not sure that they would want to go much further than that, though it is a possibility. Roethlisberger’s last contract extension, signed in March of 2015, added four years to his contract, through the 2019 season.
The Pro Bowler currently accounts for a cap hit of $23 million this year, including a $12 million base salary, the $5 million roster bonus, and $6.2 million in prorations from his original $31 million signing bonus.
The Steelers have made it abundantly clear that they have virtually no issues whatsoever with Roethlisberger, even if they drafted a quarterback they consider to be a first-round talent last year. He has been called the “unquestioned leader” who is free to criticize anybody that he feels needs to be criticized.
This is generally understood to be the purview of the franchise quarterback, but it strikes people as disturbing for some reason when it’s actually put to voice. Even many Steelers fans believe that Roethlisberger is a bad leader, but none of that means anything to the front office, the coaching staff, or, let’s say, the majority of his teammate.