The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Ben Roethlisberger will not only return for the 2021 season but also sign a contract extension.
Explanation: Although he was reluctant to make any sort of definitive statement, Ben Roethlisberger did say after Sunday’s loss that he hoped the Steelers would have him back for the 2021 season “if that’s the way we go”. He has previously repeatedly said that he intends to honor his contract, but there is always speculation that he might retire.
The key statement Roethlisberger has made in the recent past is that he will basically continue playing until he feels like he can’t play anymore and contribute to a winning effort. Say what you will about what happened in the postseason, but he still led the Steelers to a 12-3 record, and even in the loss, he threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns. He’s not dead yet, and certainly the best quarterback on the roster.
While it’s overwhelmingly likely that Roethlisberger returns, actually signing an extension is less of a sure thing, but given the salary cap situation, and the limited options that they have to reduce their cap number, an extension is likely.
A number of years ago, the Steelers signed both Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu to two-year contract extensions that were done for salary cap purposes and included no new guaranteed money. They were effectively dummy years.
While I don’t think Roethlisberger is actually going to retire, you certainly can’t rule it out, either. Players make ‘surprising’ retirements all the time. Anthony Castonzo of the Indianapolis Colts just retired. Not all of them are as well-covered as Roethlisberger’s flirtations with retirement have been, of course.
As far as an extension goes, given the situation, this might be something that they want to avoid, opening themselves to the risk of potentially having to actually release him down the line if they want to move on, which is not how they want to end the relationship (see Polamalu, Troy).