We’ll find out for sure sometime in the next seven weeks if Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be back for at least the 2021 season, the final year of his current contract. However, ahead of Roethlisberger actually announcing his 2021 intentions, NFL insider John Clayton let it be known on Wednesday during an interview on 93.7 The Fan that the Steelers quarterback will indeed be back for an 18th season.
“Yes, I am, one hundred percent,” Clayton said Wednesday when asked if he’s certain Roethlisberger will be back with the Steelers in 2021. “Now, again, unless he decides, which he’s not, that he wants to retire, but no, I think he’s definitely going to be there with the team and that’s everything that I hear and that’s where it should be.”
Personally, I don’t think Clayton’s going out on a huge limb here when it comes to Roethlisberger’s immediate future for the 2021 season. after all, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin certainly made it sound like Roethlisberger was nearly guaranteed to return for the 2021 season during his annual end-of-season press conference.
Assuming Roethlisberger does ultimately return for at least the 2021 season, the biggest thing the team will need to figure out before now and March 17 is if they can stomach his currently scheduled cap number of $41.25 million. The Steelers could decide to sign Roethlisberger to an extension that includes some or all voidable years and I wrote about that potentially being the case several months ago. On Wednesday, Clayton also addressed the likelihood of Roethlisberger signing some sort of extension in the coming seven weeks that would result in his 2021 salary cap charge dropping considerably so that the team might have breathing room to work with the reminder of the offseason and especially if the league-wide cap number comes in at $180 million or less.
“And clearly what they’re [the Steelers] going to have to do is do like a four-year extension on Ben Roethlisberger to clear cap room,” Clayton said Wednesday. “Now, again, I mean, it could be void after two years, because again, I still think if he is going to play, and I’m sure at this stage with the way he finished the season, you know, he’s on a year-to-year basis. But, again, I think he’s going to be back, but I mean, you do kind of that Drew Brees-type contract where it’s like, okay, you do four years, two of them are going to be void, and then you stretch out the cap. Because, again, he’s what, $41.25, or something like that, a cap number? So, you got to get it somewhere, you know, take it down and get it in half and the only way to do that is to do a four or five-year deal with two to three years void.”
Once again, the Steelers will need to be salary cap compliant to a still unknown league-wide cap number exactly seven weeks from today. That means we should have a particularly good idea about Roethlisberger and his contract situation within at least five to six weeks from now. Maybe even around Roethlisberger’s birthday, which is March 2. Personally, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t return for the 2021 season and equally shocked if he still has $41.25 salary cap number by the time March 17 rolls around.