2021 Offseason Questions: Was Pay Cut For Ben Roethlisberger An Ultimatum?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Was Ben Roethlisberger given an ultimatum over taking a pay cut, with the alternative being to be released?

Frankly, all signs point to Ben Roethlisberger being given an ultimatum this offseason in order to return for his 18th year. the 39-year-old quarterback was due to make $19 million this season, but the Steelers stated in no uncertain terms that they need to lower his cap hit, which was bloated to over $41 million.

Apparently, they didn’t want to push more money than they had to into future caps, and he ultimately agreed to a $5 million reduction in his salary, with a max restructure being done on top of that. Would he have still been on the roster had he refused to take a pay cut?

I think there is certainly reason to believe that was the case. Start with the fact that he took a pay cut in the first place. Players don’t take pay cuts to be good soldiers. Generally, they do it because they’re told that if you don’t, you’re going to be cut. Sometimes, like James Harrison, they choose to be cut. Sometimes, like Ike Taylor and Casey Hampton, they begrudgingly accept the circumstances to the alternative.

The other major part here is the team’s comments, especially from Kevin Colbert. He talked about wanting to wait and see how everything sorted out, but then…they didn’t. We don’t know much more now than we did when he made those comments, yet the deal got done.

Why? Because he most likely was providing an excuse for the delay while not publicly stating that they were negotiating a pay cut with Roethlisberger. Had a pay cut not been a part of the negotiations, this could have easily been done some time ago, as outside of the pay reduction, it was very straightforward.

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