Ben Roethlisberger

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While Aaron Rodgers‘ deal has received the most publicity for being outdated among quarterback contracts, Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2015 extension is looking more Steelers-friendly than it did a year ago.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

Steelers To Talk Extension With Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger says he wants to play for at least three more seasons and the Steelers are on board with that. On Wednesday, team president Art Rooney II told a small group of reporters that he will eventually have a conversation with Big Ben about extending his deal beyond 2019. Ben Roethlisberger

[RELATED: Le’Veon Bell Discusses Contract Situation]

We haven’t had a long conversation about that other than him saying he is interested in playing beyond his contract,” Rooney said (via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler). “That’s good news to me, and certainly his play this year makes you feel like he does have a few years left. All that is great in terms of the contract. We’ll address that at the right time. But bottom line is we’re excited that’s the way he feels and we’ll continue to work with him and hopefully get a couple more rings with him.

Roethlisberger turns 36 in March and has flirted with retirement in the past, but he is still playing football at a high level and wants to add a third ring to his collection. In 2017, Roethlisberger had a 64.2% completion rate with 28 touchdowns and a 92.4 quarterback rating. He finished stronger than he started with 348 yards and three touchdowns per contest over his final seven games.

Since entering the league in 2004, Roethlisberger owns a career 135-63 record in the regular season.

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Ben Roethlisberger To Play 3 More Years?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has privately told teammates that he wants to play for at least three more seasons, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.Ben Roethlisberger (vertical)

The 35-year-old Roethlisberger indicated following Sunday’s Divisional Round loss that he plans to return for the 2018 season, an important disclosure given that he reportedly mulled retirement prior to the 2017 campaign. Coming off a season which was largely in line with his career norms (64.2% completion rate, 28 touchdowns, 92.4 quarterback rating), Roethlisberger sounds as though he’s eager to continue his career through at least next year, and potentially beyond. He’s under contract through 2019, with cap charges of $23.2MM in each season.

Roethlisberger’s relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley has reportedly been the source of some strain, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Sunday that the rapport between the two Steelers “in in as bad of a place as it’s been in years.” Haley’s contract is now expired, per Bouchette, and it’s unclear if he’ll return to Pittsburgh in 2018 after failing to “build support among key players” on the club’s offense. If Haley leaves the Steelers, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner would represent a “strong candidate” to become the team’s next offensive coordinator.

Appearing on his local radio show on CBS Pittsburgh this morning, Roethlisberger seemed to refute any concerns regarding Haley. “There’s always issues in a competitive field,” said Roethlisberger, noting that the reported rift is “perceived as a bigger deal” than reality might warrant (Twitter links via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com). “You might butt heads at times, it doesn’t mean you have any personal problems.”

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Ben Roethlisberger Plans To Return In 2018

Speaking after today’s Divisional Round loss to the Jaguars, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters that he plans to continue his NFL career in 2018.Ben Roethlisberger

“I don’t know everybody’s contract situation, but I know the guys up front are signed, and that’s good for me,” said Roethlisberger. “So I look forward to next year with those guys.”

Roethlisberger, 35, mulled retirement prior to the 2017 campaign, and further reports indicated he could consider hanging up his cleats again this offseason. But following a season which was largely in line with his career norms (64.2% completion rate, 28 touchdowns, 92.4 quarterback rating), Roethlisberger sounds as though he’s eager to return in 2018.

As Roethlisberger alluded to, Pittsburgh’s starting offensive line is signed through at least 2018. But one of Roethlisberger’s key weapons — running back Le’Veon Bell — is a pending free agent and has threatened to retire if he’s franchise-tagged for a second consecutive season. Changes could theoretically occur on the Steelers’ coaching staff, as well, as Roethlisberger’s relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley is said to be especially strained.

The Steelers don’t have much of a succession plan to replace Roethlisberger for the long term, as neither backup Landry Jones or 2017 fourth-round pick Joshua Dobbs are considered realistic starters. As such, Pittsburgh has been eyeing 2018 draft-eligible quarterbacks closely, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link), and could select a passer in this year’s draft.

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Steelers Notes: Brown, Bell, Haley

Antonio Brown is likely to play in the Steelers’ divisional round contest against Jacksonville this afternoon, as ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports, although Schefter adds that Brown’s injured calf is not close to being fully healed. The league’s top wideout, who is one month removed from the partially torn left calf muscle that forced him to miss the final two games of the regular season, will go through pregame warmups to test the calf, but as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets, every expectation is that Brown will play and will play regularly. Brown was forced to miss Friday’s practice because of an illness, but he was a full participant in practices on Wednesday and Thursday, and Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that Brown’s illness will not impact his playing status [Twitter update: Brown is active, per Schefter].

Now for several more notes on the AFC North champions:

  • His idle threats notwithstanding, no one expects Le’Veon Bell to retire or sit out the 2018 season if he is hit with the franchise tag for the second straight year, least of all the Steelers themselves. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link), the Steelers are indeed expected to put the franchise tag on Bell, which has been a foregone conclusion for some time now. As Rapoport observes, Pittsburgh has historically refused to cede to the demands of players who threaten to sit out, and he does not expect the club to change it standard operating procedure for Bell. If Bell does play 2018 under the tag, he will have earned roughly $26.5MM over the 2017-18 seasons, while he would have earned $30MM if he signed the long-term deal the Steelers offered him last year. Nonetheless, we will still need to wait to see what the future holds before we can say for sure whether that was a wise financial move for Bell.
  • We heard at the end of December that the relationship between Ben Roethlisberger and OC Todd Haley is strained, but Rapoport goes one step further, saying that the relationship “is in as bad of a place as it’s been in years.” Nonetheless, Roethlisberger has thrived under Haley’s leadership, which puts the Steelers in something of a bind. Haley’s contract expires at the end of the season, so Pittsburgh will need to decide whether it wants to bring him back and hope he and Big Ben can put aside their personal differences since the on-field product has been so good, or whether it wants to move on. Of course, the decision could be made for the Steelers if Roethlisberger makes good on his threat to retire, or if offensive line coach Mike Munchak gets a head coaching job elsewhere and brings Haley with him, which Rapoport says is a distinct possibility.
  • Speaking of Munchak, who has already interviewed with the Cardinals for their head coaching job, we heard this morning that he could be a dark horse candidate for the Giants’ HC vacancy.

La Canfora’s Latest: Jets, Panthers, Steelers

While Josh McCown hasn’t yet announced whether he’ll continue his career in 2018, those close to him believe the veteran quarterback will return for another season, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. McCown, who is currently on injured reserve after breaking his hand, posted arguably the best campaign of his career while starting 13 games for the Jets this year. Given that he’ll be entering his age-39 season, McCown won’t command a long-term contract, and could theoretically make sense as a bridge quarterback for a number of clubs. When he does hang up his cleats, McCown is expected to generate interest as a coach.

Here’s more from La Canfora as Week 16 comes to a close:

  • Speaking of the Jets, it would qualify as “shocking” if Gang Green doesn’t release defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson prior to next season, per La Canfora. Wilkerson has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, and he isn’t expected to play for New York again this season despite being fully healthy. Missed meetings and other off-field offenses have led the Jets’ coaching staff to become “fed up” with Wilkerson, and there’s almost no chance the club will opt to pay him $17MM in 2018. Still, Wilkerson is expected to generate interest if he hits the free agent market next spring.
  • Although reports of a $2.5 billion price for the Panthers may have been exaggerated, sources still expect the Carolina franchise to garner at least $2 billion, as La Canfora writes. Although the NFL will require full cooperation as the league investigates claims of harassment against owner Jerry Richardson, the league won’t be able to tell Richardson to whom he can sell his team. Because Richardson isn’t keeping the club in his family, he has the right to sell to whomever he chooses.
  • The relationship between Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley has become strained, per La Canfora, who adds Roethlisberger has asked for a “buffer” between him and Haley during games. As such, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner has begun coaching from the sidelines (instead of the press box) in order to act as that go-between. While reports of complications between Roethlisberger and Haley may have no affect, the relationship could potentially affect offseason staff plans for Pittsburgh.
  • The Patriots, Eagles, and Vikings are all expected to lose members of their staff this offseason as coaches leave for promotions with other clubs, according to La Canfora. New England, Philadelphia, and Minnesota are three of the most successful teams in the league in 2017, and coordinators such as Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Jim Schwartz, Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, Pat Shurmur, and George Edwards could all be on the move.

AFC Notes: Peyton, Fuller, Big Ben, JuJu

Peyton Manning has taken a few years off from the game after his Super Bowl farewell in 2016. However, he’s been widely speculated to move into a team president type role as soon as he fills like jumping back into the industry, and there should a wide amount of interest in his services.

As part of his Friday column, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated mentioned that Manning would likely be on the top of the list for any team with an opening at the head of their football operations. He spoke to a source on the Broncos current staff who said that, “There’d honestly be no one better.” 

Breer expressed that while the former Colts and Broncos signal caller doesn’t have any front office experience, he’s been preparing for the position for years as a player, specifically shadowing the actions of current Broncos football czar, John Elway. As a player, Manning always kept tabs on the draft, free agency and many of the other aspects that go into leading an NFL franchise. While there’s nothing like firsthand experience in that atmosphere, Manning has clearly demonstrated his vast knowledge of the game in the way he revolutionized the quarterback position during his time in the league.

“He’ll be extremely successful in anything he chooses to do because of the person is, how smart he is and how hard he works,” said one personnel man who worked with him in Indy. “He’ll be extremely well prepared, have done research on the job and have an understanding of what the job entails. 

Breer speculates that the Browns would likely be clamoring to bring Manning aboard to lead their football operations, among pretty much any other front office needy franchise.

  • The Texans have been without big play threat Will Fuller for the past two weeks and head coach Bill O’Brien doesn’t expect that to change in Week 13, reports Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The 2016 first round pick missed the opening part of the year with injury too, but sandwiched an outstanding run of games in which he scored six times in four contests. Barshop does note that the O’Brien didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of Fuller making a return in the final few weeks of the regular season.
  • The Steelers are in a much different spot than the Giants at this point in time, but veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger opened up to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to discuss how he empathizes with the situation Eli Manning is going through right now. “It sparks the reality that that could be me,” Roethlisberger said. “They could do that to me next year or whenever, who knows? It’s eye-opening that you have to take every play, every game, don’t take it for granted, take it for what it is because you never know when you’re done.” However, while Big Ben and Eli were taken in the same draft and both have multiple Super Bowls to their credit, the Steelers signal caller doesn’t believe that the only team he’s ever known would treat him in the same way. “I don’t, and I don’t mean to talk negatively about the Giants, especially I know the Steelers and Giants are very close and are family, too. But I don’t think they would, I think they would handle it differently.” These are interesting comments considering Roethlisberger expressed some reservations about continuing to play this past offseason, and even though he’s recovered nicely from a unusually slow start, the fact that he’s thinking about these career questions shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • On the field, Pittsburgh is expected to have rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster back in the lineup for the team’s Monday night affair against the Bengals, according to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. The 21-year-old sat out last week’s victory over the Packers with an ankle injury, but returned to practice in-full on Thursday. He’ll likely continue to operate in the slot with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant playing more on the boundaries.

 

 

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Big Ben, Ravens

Following yesterday’s five-interception against the Jaguars, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger offered a concise report of his performance. “Maybe I don’t have it anymore,” Roethlisberger told Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link). While Roethlisberger could have been hoping for levity after a brutal loss, the comments do call into question just how much longer Roethlisberger will play, especially given that he’s contemplated retirement on multiple occasions. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes, the idea of forfeiting bonus money could have swayed Roethlisberger into continuing his career in 2017, but that concept will continue in the next few years. If Roethlisberger hangs up it after this season, for example, he’d owe the Steelers $12.4MM in bonus money (of course, Pittsburgh isn’t obligated to collect that total).

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Ravens running back Terrance West is expected to miss time after suffering a calf injury on Sunday, but he won’t facing a lengthy absence, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). West, 26, had been splitting carries with Javorius Allen and Alex Collins, and had managed 39 rushes for 138 yards and two touchdowns this season. With West sidelined, Allen figures to see even more work (he toted the ball 21 times on Sunday) while Collins could also see increased usage. But Baltimore may need to add a running back, as Allen and Collins are the only healthy runners on the roster. Practice squader John Crockett is a candidate for promotion.
  • Tyler Boyd will also be out for a few weeks, as the Bengals receiver sprained his MCL in Week 5, tweets Rapoport. Boyd, who is facing a possible legal situation and was mysteriously a healthy scratch in Week 2, has been almost completely phased out of Cincinnati’s offense this season. The former second-round pick has been targeted only nine times, and managed just six receptions for 43 yards.
  • The Ravens will be without yet another offensive lineman for the next several weeks, as guard Matt Skura suffered a sprained MCL and will miss two-to-four games, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). Skura, who has started three games for the Ravens this season, will likely give way to rookie Jermaine Eluemunor at right guard. Baltimore has already lost front five players Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, and Nico Siragusa to injury.
  • Free agent safeties Harold Jones-Quartey and Malik Smith, plus offensive tackles Korren Kirven and Victor Salako, worked out for the Browns, per veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link). Of that foursome, only Jones-Quartey has NFL experience, as the 24-year-old started 12 games for the Bears in 2016.