Steelers News

Despite ‘Opportunities’, Khan Not Feeling Added Pressure To Win Super Bowl With QB On Rookie Deal

At least until last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a quarterback at a budget price for some time. Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t had a cap hit lower than $10 million for a season without a restructure being involved since they last won the Super Bowl in 2008.

Now they have Kenny Pickett going into the 2023 season with a $3,197,251 cap hit and a base salary of a mere $870,000, which is the minimum value for a second-year player. Even if they do end up having a backup with an $8 million base salary, they’re likely to have the cheapest quarterback room in the league among any who feel they have their franchise piece. And they recognize that.

Obviously we have a starting quarterback on a rookie contract and there are opportunities that come with that”, Steelers general manager Omar Khan said last week at the podium during the NFL Scouting Combine. “I’m not gonna go into detail about how specifically we’re gonna allocate things, but there’s obviously opportunities when you have a starting quarterback on a rookie contract”.

The most obvious ‘opportunity’ a team with a starter at the position on a rookie contract is presented is, of course, the ability to keep the price down for services rendered. If Pickett is as good as they hope he is, they’ll be paying him $50 million-plus in a handful of years. Per season, to be clear.

And they’ll embrace that ‘problem’ with open arms should it come to it, as any team would, because it’s always the ultimate goal to possess a quarterback who can win you a Super Bowl. But at least in theory, it’s easier to win with that guy when you’re paying him less.

Why? Because it means you have more money to pay other people who can help him win, of course. And the Steelers will already have to make moves just to function this offseason even considering the paltry cap hit Pickett commands. Imagine the spot they would be in if they had to account for 10 times that hit against the cap.

With that being said, he also told Mike Florio for Pro Football Talk last week that it doesn’t change their ultimate focus. “I don’t know if there’s added pressure to it”, he said, with respect to the urgency to win a championship while your quarterback is still cheap.

Obviously there’s opportunities when you have a quarterback on a rookie contract, but every year you try to go into this trying to win a Super Bowl”, he added. “We were around Ben Roethlisberger for 18 years and he wasn’t on a rookie contract for too long. We always tried to do what we could to win a Super Bowl every year”.

Judging the merit of the importance of winning on a quarterback’s rookie contract is made difficult by the dominance of Tom Brady over the past couple of decades. The Kansas City Chiefs have done it both on Patrick Mahomes’ rookie deal and after his massive extension. The Los Angeles Rams with their old and expensive quarterback edged out young first-overall Joe Burrow two seasons ago. So perhaps it’s not so deleterious to Super Bowl aspirations after you pay your guy.

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