While there is a great deal of disagreement over whether or not quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s return actually puts the Pittsburgh Steelers in the conversation of competing for a title in 2021, there can hardly be any dispute over the fact that his presence makes it more likely than does his absence. There isn’t anything realistically that they can do at quarterback that would give them a better option in the immediate short term.
Team president Art Rooney II recently came out and stated that they must lower Roethlisberger’s salary cap hit in order to bring him back in 2021. The quarterback would later state publicly that he is ready and willing to work with the team to do just that.
There were also reports that Roethlisberger was trying to talk center Maurkice Pouncey into not retiring, and others stating that he was trying to keep wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster from leaving in free agency—letting the front office, presumably, know that he feels re-signing the four-year receiver should be a priority. Smith-Schuster spoke about Roethlisberger on The Doug Gottlieb Show recently.
“We keep in contact”, he said. “I think this [offseason’s] a little bit different because he’s trying to figure out what he wants to do and his situation. It looks like he wants to come back, and he wants certain players back, so I would love to come back. I would love to play with Ben for his time being here”.
Soon to turn 39 years old, the 17-year veteran has one more year on his contract after attempting more than 600 passes during the regular season, throwing for 3800 yards with 33 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions.
His, and the Steelers’, season ended on a low note in the postseason, however. Though he threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns, his four interceptions played a critical role in sinking the team against the Cleveland Browns. It was a rough loss, but the raw emotions have since passed.
“You’re talking about a guy who wants to play again”, Smith-Schuster said of Roethlisberger. “He wants to have the same guys around him, and that’s what it’s probably going to take. He doesn’t care about the money. He wants to restructure his contract, and I think that’s pretty cool. It just goes to show that he’s more about the team than anything else”.
Needless to say, the Steelers’ offense would look immensely different without Roethlisberger, and without Smith-Schuster as well. Even if they both return, however, there will be key changes, starting with the switch at offensive coordinator, the team letting go of Randy Fichtner after three seasons in the role and promoting Matt Canada.