Buy Or Sell: Steelers Will Delay Ben Roethlisberger’s March Roster Bonus While They Figure Out What To Do With Him

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: The Steelers intend to delay Ben Roethlisberger’s 2021 roster bonus, a $15 million amount that becomes due on March 19, the third day of the new league year.

Explanation: Earlier this month, general manager Kevin Colbert said that he spoke to Roethlisberger, but they had not negotiated, and agreed to wait to see how things play out, even mentioning free agency, and the draft, to figure out his situation. If they actually intend to wait months to figure out what to do with his contract, then they have to delay his roster  bonus, which is immoveable once accrued and counts toward this year’s cap.


Basically, this hinges on whether or not you take Colbert literally when he says that they intend to let the offseason unfold first before deciding what to do with Roethlisberger, and there is a case for that. If they have alternatives for the quarterback position, for example—if they draft one—then that could change their plans for the big man’s deal.

One major component here is getting a feel for the free agent market. If they feel like they could retain a JuJu Smith-Schuster or a Bud Dupree with Roethlisberger off the books, but they can’t determine that in time before the roster bonus would be due, then obviously that’s a problem.

Roethlisberger is not in the strongest position in the world, and he knows that. Delaying the accrual of the signing bonus is not an unreasonable request. It’s something that they did with Chris Boswell a couple of years ago when his job was on the line.


The whole notion is absurd on the face of it because the planning of the roster begins with a resolution of the quarterback position. You have to decide first and foremost whether or not Roethlisberger is your quarterback, and if he is, then the only option is to add voidable years to his contract and spread out his cap hit, because there won’t be a pay cut asked for or accepted.

Colbert talked about getting a better feel for what the draft class would look like. He wasn’t talking about literally knowing which players they will have drafted before figuring out what to do with Roethlisberger. Maybe they want to evaluate the reasonableness of their coming away from this draft class with a very encouraging quarterback prospect before making a final decision to have one more go-around with Big Ben. And that will come before the start of the new league year, which is still four weeks away.

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