Ben Roethlisberger

AFC North Notes: Gordon, Steelers, Mixon

Josh Gordon trekked to the Browns facility Saturday complaining of hamstring trouble, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), and that’s resulted in the team ruling him out for Sunday’s game against the Saints. Gordon did not travel with the Browns to New Orleans.

This escalated rapidly. Gordon was expected to suit up in Week 2 after playing in Week 1. But the receiver with a notorious penchant for unavailability was slow to return from his latest hiatus because of hamstring pain. Cleveland will attempt to stun New Orleans without him, and Gordon will miss yet another game. After Sunday, the 2013 All-Pro will have missed 55 of the Browns’ past 66 games.

From a player who’s struggled to a historic degree to stay on the field to one whose voluntary absence has generated one of the most unique holdouts in NFL history, here’s the latest from the AFC North.

  • The Steelers took Le’Veon Bell off their depth chart this week and barely anything came out of this saga this week. The running back remains absent from his team and will miss out on another $853K game check, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Bell will have lost $1.7MM by the end of Week 2. This preservation-based holdout has generated concerns from around the league, and even if Bell limits himself to a half-season’s worth of work or less, he will still go into free agency with far more carries than typical running backs seeking second contracts do. Bell has 1,229 totes already, and that’s with him missing 19 career games. By season’s end, assuming he returns, that number figures to reside around at least 1,400. Seeking a Todd Gurley– or David Johnson-level pact is complicated by the fact those younger backs have 1,244 career carries combined.
  • Ben Roethlisberger‘s full practice Friday probably gave this away, but he is slated to play Sunday. ESPN.com’s Diana Russini tweets the 15th-year Steelers quarterback will suit up against the Chiefs in Week 2. An elbow injury cropped up and caused Big Ben to miss Pittsburgh’s Wednesday and Thursday practices, but he’ll be back for a key AFC matchup. With Roethlisberger in the lineup, the Steelers — counting 2016’s divisional-round win — have beaten the Chiefs six straight times dating back to the 2011 season. Kansas City’s one win over Pittsburgh this decade came in 2015 with Landry Jones at the controls.
  • Joe Mixon underwent knee surgery and is set to miss between two and four weeks of Bengals action. The surgery involving a small particle in Mixon’s knee being removed went well, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com reports. This would explain the positive outlook the second-year running back’s received. Bengals brass initially feared Mixon would miss up to six games.

AFC Injury Notes: Titans, Ben, Berry, Bolts

Marcus Mariota experienced difficulty gripping the ball after suffering a Week 1 elbow injury, but he could well return for the Titans this week. However, he doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Blaine Gabbert stands to see time as well as an apparent result. Mike Vrabel said he expects to use both of his quarterbacks against the Texans, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (on Twitter). Mariota hasn’t made much progress since his injury in Tennessee’s opener and was still experiencing tingling in his throwing arm as of Wednesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, making this an interesting situation for a Titans team with playoff aspirations. If Mariota fails to progress by Sunday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Titans sitting him. Gabbert filled in for an injury-ransacked Cardinals team last season, making five starts (including a 12-7 win over the Titans). He completed 11 of 22 passes in a loss to the Dolphins last week.

Here’s the latest on the AFC injury front heading into Week 2:

  • A higher-profile AFC passer does look to be in better shape going into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger practiced fully on Friday, Mike Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter), pointing him toward being available in Sunday’s Steelers-Chiefs tilt. An elbow malady caused Big Ben to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Joshua Dobbs would start against Kansas City if Pittsburgh’s franchise passer can’t go.
  • When Mariota and/or Gabbert take snaps Sunday, they’ll do so with second-string tackles. Jack Conklin won’t be ready to debut, and Taylor Lewan is out as well after suffering a concussion, McCormick notes.
  • Eric Berry‘s ninth NFL season remains on hold while he battles a heel ailment. The All-Pro Chiefs safety did not practice on Friday and is doubtful to suit up in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Andy Reid (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, on Twitter). Berry’s battled this heel trouble, on the opposite foot of the torn Achilles he suffered in September 2017, for over a month.
  • As expected, Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers-Bills game Sunday. Right tackle Joe Barksdale won’t suit up, either, ESPN’s Eric Williams tweets. A knee injury’s affecting Barksdale. Sam Tevi is likely to start for the Bolts at right tackle. Second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell replaced Bosa as a starting defensive end last week.

Ben Roethlisberger Did Not Suffer Concussion

Although Ben Roethlisberger wound up in concussion protocol for the first time in his career, the Steelers quarterback avoided major trouble. 

He did not suffer a concussion, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Mike Tomlin confirmed as much. Roethlisberger is expected to resume action soon. Marcus Gilbert being shoved into Roethlisberger dislodged the quarterback’s helmet, but he did not sustain a concussion as a result.

The Steelers will hold their 15th-year starter out of their second preseason game, which is Thursday night, but Schefter notes the plan is for him to take the field in Pittsburgh’s third exhibition contest.

Mason Rudolph will start for the Steelers tonight, with Joshua Dobbs expected to play throughout the second half. Dobbs may well be auditioning for other teams, with Roethlisberger and Rudolph locks to make the roster and Landry Jones having served as Big Ben’s backup for two years now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Steelers, Big Ben, Raiders

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger landed in concussion protocol after absorbing a big hit in practice, but he is doing fine now and is expected to resume football activities soon, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. Remarkably, this was Roethlisberger’s first time in the protocol, and fortunately it was a short stay for the 36-year-old.

Roethlisberger has said that his “long-term brain health” would play a role in the length of his NFL career, so the good news was certainly welcome for the Steelers QB.

Here’s more from the AFC:

Ben Roethlisberger In Concussion Protocol

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in the concussion protocol after absorbing a hit during Thursday’s practice, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.

Roethlisberger reportedly ran into right tackle Marcus Gilbert and linebacker Keion Adams while rolling to the right, and was subsequently escorted off the field by trainers. The veteran quarterback, whom Fowler notes last suffered a concussion during the 2015 campaign, hadn’t been scheduled to play in Pittsburgh’s Thursday tilt against Green Bay, but Roethlisberger’s availability for the remainder of the preseason is now in question.

Based on a typical concussion timeline, the 36-year-old Roethlisberger will return in time for Week 1 of the regular season. If complications arise, however, the Steelers would turn to backup Landry Jones, with recent draft picks Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs in reserve.

As Fowler adds, Roethlisberger has previously stated that “long-term brain health” would play a role in the length of his NFL career. Roethlisbeger reportedly mulled retirement after the 2016 season, but told teammates in January he’d like to play at least three more years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Mack, McKinney, Big Ben

The Raiders are far later in the game with Khalil Mack than they were when they signed Derek Carr to a then-record-breaking extension, with Mack on the verge of his fifth season compared to Carr being midway through the offseason prior to his fourth. Reggie McKenzie addressed the All-Pro defensive end’s status. The seventh-year Raiders GM does not anticipate Mack reporting to camp without an extension, one that’s shown no progress and featured zero dialogue between Mack and Jon Gruden.

Khalil is my guy. … It’s unfortunate that we have to go through this. But his camp decided to do it this way … and Khalil is not the first guy to hold out,” McKenzie said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “But we’ll get through this. But there is nothing really to report. He is going to hold out until he gets an extension, and that’s where we are.”

Mack’s already accrued sufficient years for free agency, unlike Aaron Donald. But the two are linked together because of similar pursuits: those of a contract that would raise the bar for defensive players. McKenzie insists the Rams’ impasse has nothing to do with the Raiders. Though, one of these players agreeing to terms would undoubtedly make matters easier for the other team’s negotiations.

No, our waiting game is just with Khalil. Our focus … I will be honest, we are not even thinking about Aaron Donald,” he said. “Aaron Donald could sign tomorrow, and we’re only focused on Khalil. … Setting the market, all that, that is not the case at all.”

Here’s the AFC latest:

  • One difference Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk observes between Mack and Donald: rumors aren’t circulating about the Rams’ wherewithal to construct a Donald contract. However, some are wondering if the Raiders can give Mack the kind of guarantee he’s seeking, Florio notes. Mack will be requiring his guarantees be north of Von Miller‘s $70MM ($42MM guaranteed at signing), and Mark Davis‘ franchise is on the lower end of the cash spectrum among NFL teams. Mack is due $13.8MM this season. A prospective franchise tag in 2019 would bump that to around $20MM. Florio suggests, if this is truly the case (and if it was, that would certainly qualify as a crisis), then the Raiders should consider trading their superstar defender to a team that can afford to pay him.
  • Benardrick McKinney‘s five-year Texans extension is worth a bit more than originally reported. It’s a $51.1MM deal rather than a $50MM accord, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The inside linebacker received just a $3.75MM signing bonus, with Wilson adding a $5.25MM 2018 roster bonus came McKinney’s way as well. Overall, $21MM is guaranteed in this deal. Wilson notes McKinney will make $6MM in 2019 base salary; that figure is guaranteed. His $6MM base in 2020 is guaranteed for injury but becomes fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster by the fifth day of ’20 league year. McKinney’s cap figures are as follows: $7.7MM (2018), $7.5MM (’19), $7.5MM (’20), $8.5MM (’21), $10.25MM (’22), $10.25MM (’23).
  • Ben Roethlisberger is down approximately 15 pounds at Steelers camp, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic noting the 15th-year quarterback weighs 250. Big Ben hinted at retirement following the 2016 season but reaffirmed his commitment to the Steelers after last season concluded. He’s now hinted at being interested in signing another Pittsburgh extension, with negotiations likely set for 2019 (his contract year).

AFC North Rumors: Gordon, Steelers, Ravens

Josh Gordon‘s present designation with the Browns is on the reserve/did not report list. The Browns likely could not have placed the 27-year-old pass-catcher on the non-football illness list, since he would have had to fail a physical for that to occur. While Gordon does not currently count toward Cleveland’s 90-man roster, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk cautions the wideout’s road back to the team may not be a matter of him merely returning to Berea, Ohio. Gordon may have to have Roger Goodell approve his request for Browns reinstatement, Florio reports. The reasoning behind this is Goodell OK’d a Gordon return last year under the terms of a treatment plan, with Florio adding that possible Goodell approval would center around whether or not the embattled receiver has violated the terms of that plan. Gordon’s believed to be at a Gainesville, Fla., treatment facility. He spent 90 days in a Gainesville rehab center last fall. While Florio doesn’t expect Goodell to stand in the way of a Gordon return, he would have the right to suspend Gordon for another year under the substance-abuse policy.

Jimmy Haslam did not comment when asked Saturday if the NFL needed to approve Gordon’s Browns reinstatement, and Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes the league has not provided clarity on this situation yet. Haslam added he does not have a timetable for Gordon’s return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC North, shifting to a potentially troublesome situation in Pittsburgh:

  • Ramon Foster has played more Steelers snaps than anyone since the 2009 season (h/t Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com), but he was carted off the practice field Saturday. During a full-contact workout, Stephon Tuitt rolled into Foster’s right leg, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter links). Mike Tomlin did not elaborate on the issue, only saying that the 10th-year guard is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (via Twitter). A Foster loss would represent a major setback for the Steelers. Foster’s a seven-season full-time starter and is in the final year of his deal. Ben Roethlisberger consoled the 32-year-old guard as he was carted away.
  • Roethlisberger has shown up to camp in noticeably better shape, with La Canfora noting the Steelers expected their quarterback to show up prepared to earn one final blockbuster extension. Although a report surfaced about the Steelers and Roethlisberger were planning to discuss a re-up this offseason, the 15th-year quarterback said he didn’t want to do a deal before this season. But he’ll be set for a contract year in 2019.
  • While the Steelers do, however, have a Chris Boswell extension slotted as a preseason priority, JLC adds the team shouldn’t be expected to make a Joe Haden-style addition before the season. Pittsburgh added the longtime Cleveland cornerback on a $9MM-per-year deal late last summer but holds barely $5MM in cap space presently. Boswell is entering a contract year.
  • Greg Robinson resides in the Browns‘ concussion protocol, Hue Jackson said Saturday (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, on Twitter). The Browns brought the former No. 2 overall pick this offseason. He has a clearer path to the 53-man roster now that Donald Stephenson has retired, but Robinson has not proven reliable during his four-year career.
  • Only Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are locks to be Ravens offensive line starters, with Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic noting (subscription required) the team used numerous O-line combinations Saturday. Expected to vie for Baltimore’s right tackle job, James Hurst is working primarily at right guard while Alex Lewis — whom Zreibec projects as the left guard starter — has worked plenty at center. The Ravens’ right guard starter, Yanda remains on the PUP list. Zreibec still contends Hurst will settle at right tackle, with rookie Orlando Brown in the mix at that spot as well.

Roethlisberger Not Pursuing 2018 Extension

While Aaron Rodgers‘ deal has received the most publicity for being outdated among quarterback contracts, Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2015 extension is looking more Steelers-friendly than it did a year ago.

Signed to a four-year deal that pays him $21.85MM on average, Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback is now well off the pace Matt Ryan ($30MM AAV) is now setting. Roethlisberger’s deal came in below Rodgers’ current contract ($22MM per year) and now sits 12th on the quarterback hierarchy.

The Steelers have a policy of not renegotiating contracts that have more than one year remaining on them. Although, Kevin Colbert said earlier this offseason a Roethlisberger 2018 extension isn’t off the table. Pittsburgh, however, shouldn’t expect a contentious battle from the signal-caller just yet.

I have two years on my contract. I’m not going to be one to sit here and worry about my contract,” Roethlisberger said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “That’s not my job. My job is to play football. I’ll let my representation, the Steelers worry about all that stuff. To me, it’s all about going out and playing now. I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now.

For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.”

Surely alluding to Le’Veon Bell‘s impasse with the team, one that is less than a month from a possible point of no return that is the tag deadline, Roethlisberger doesn’t sound like he’s going to pursue a extension until after this year. He’ll be entering a contract year in 2019 just as Ryan was before his record-breaking re-up, thus increasing his leverage. While Roethlisberger be 37 shortly after this season concludes, the Steelers’ Super Bowl window may well coincide with his employment.

The 15th-year quarterback also doesn’t foresee himself gunning for the kind of contract that would make it difficult for the Steelers, a franchise that relies on extensions due to a philosophy that largely eschews free agency, to keep core performers.

It’s important, too, to understand as quarterback of this team, sometimes you almost have to leave a little bit of money behind for other guys,” Roethlisberger said, via Fowler. “That’s not my job, that’s not my thing to worry about. That’s why I have agents.”

The 36-year-old quarterback is now not debating retirement like he was after the 2017 offseason. He said quickly after the ’17 season ended he intended to play in 2018, and talk of another Steelers extension emerged soon after. Big Ben also grumbled, to some degree, the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in Round 3 rather than a player who could immediately help the contending team.

Roethlisberger wants the Steelers to extend center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Both have two years left on their deals and are now seeing their quarterback issue a low-key ultimatum regarding their futures with the team.

I know in two years, Pouncey, Gilbert, there are other very important guys up that I hope get taken care of,” Roethlisberger said. “Because if they aren’t here, I’m not here. That’s the way it is; they are that good.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ben Roethlisberger On Steelers’ QB Situation, Future Plans

Having seen probably the best Steelers team since at least the Super Bowl XLV-qualifying version fail to win a playoff game, Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to be too thrilled about the franchise using a key resource to draft his possible replacement and not a player who stands to help the team this season.

I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said during an interview with 93.7 The Fan (via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com). “Nothing against Mason (Rudolph); I think he’s a great football player. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he’s a great kid. I just don’t know how backing up or being a third [string] — well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart — helps us win now.”

The Steelers used their first-round pick on safety Terrell Edmunds and chose another wide receiver in former Rudolph Oklahoma State target James Washington. But they made their biggest quarterback draft investment since Roethlisberger with their third 2018 draft choice.

The 36-year-old quarterback is going into his 15th season. Roethlisberger said quickly after the Steelers’ loss to the Jaguars that he would return for the 2018 season, and he’s said he now wants to play beyond his current contract. That deal runs through 2019. However, this abrupt declaration came in stark contrast to how Roethlisberger proceeded after the 2016 season, when he went weeks without committing to return in 2017.

Fowler notes the reaction around Steelers headquarters was positive, but now he wonders if the team believes he’s going to be playing into his late 30s.

I wanted them to know so they wouldn’t have to worry about drafting a quarterback,” Roethlisberger said. “I wanted to make sure there were no questions. Once they drafted a quarterback in the third, I wasn’t sure if they believed me or not. But I’m committed to it.”

Making his sixth Pro Bowl, Roethlisberger also made it through a season without missing games due to injury for the first time since 2014. The Steelers may be ready to extend Roethlisberger beyond his current contract, which features $23.2MM cap numbers in 2018 and ’19, this offseason. But he appears to be more concerned about whether Le’Veon Bell will be extended and would be fine with Pittsburgh brass tending to his own deal next year.

To me, there are more important pieces that need to be taken care of besides myself,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve got two years left, this one and one more. I want to go out and do the best I can. To me, it’s about addressing it next year. But if they feel they want to talk and address something this year, we will obviously talk and listen.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Put Le’Veon Bell Talks On Hold

The Steelers are putting negotiations with star running back Le’Veon Bell on hold while the team continues to navigate free agency and prepare for the draft, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. GM Kevin Colbert indicated that his club will resume talks with Bell’s reps “eventually,” and he hopes Bell will report to training camp.

Colbert added, “We’re not intentionally ignoring [Bell’s contract]. More urgent business needs to get taken care of. We will reassess where that is. He’ll reassess where his interests are as well. I anticipate us continuing that process once we get through the free agency period and maybe even through the draft. The draft can change things on both sides.”

We heard several weeks ago that Pittsburgh was getting closer to meeting Bell’s asking price, but obviously the team has not gotten there yet. Bell, of course, was hit with the franchise tag for the second consecutive season earlier this month, and while he will receive a healthy $14.544MM if he plays out the 2018 campaign under the tag, he is still looking for long-term security at a rate that the Steelers do not seem to be willing to pay.

Nonetheless, both Fowler and Mark Kaboly of TheAthletic.com (Twitter link) believe it is unlikely that the Steelers rescind Bell’s franchise tag. If they did, it could leave Bell in a tough position, as many teams have already spent their free agent budget, and even those that have not done so would probably be just as unwilling as the Steelers to satisfy Bell’s contract demands. Therefore, Bell may have to simply sign the franchise tender at some point prior to the start of the season. He has indicated previously that he will not attend training camp if he does not get a multi-year deal to his liking, even though his early-season performance in 2017 was not up to his usual standards, perhaps because he also skipped last year’s training camp.

Colbert’s comments that the team cannot divert its attention from free agency right now may raise some eyebrows given the Steelers’ small amount of cap room, but Kaboly tweets that Pittsburgh may not be done in free agency if a player it likes unexpectedly becomes available.

The Steelers also have several other in-house matters to resolve. Colbert said that the team could still extend Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract this offseason, which was mentioned as a possibility last month (Twitter link via Fowler). Big Ben’s current deal keeps him under club control through 2019.

Also, Kaboly tweets that no decision has been made with respect to Bud Dupree‘s fifth-year option, which must be exercised by May 3, but Fowler tweets that Colbert seems open to exercising it.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.