Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Have Discussed Extension

Reports earlier this month indicated the Steelers were expected to discuss an extension with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and club owner Art Rooney II confirmed this week that those talks have indeed begun.

“We’ve already started talking to him and his representative about extending that contract,” Rooney said, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune. “I think Ben has some good years left. I’d still say he’s close to being in the prime of his career.

“Now that we’re seeing quarterbacks around the league that are playing into their 40s,” Rooney added. “I’m not sure there’s any reason that Ben can’t play for several more years. We’re looking forward to that.”

Roethlisberger, 36, is entering the final season of his current deal. He’s scheduled to earn a $12MM base salary and a $5MM roster bonus, and carries a cap charge of $23.2MM. Pittsburgh is among the bottom-10 teams in 2019 cap space, so a Roethlisberger extension would serve not only to lock in the star quarterback for a few more years, but give the Steelers financial breathing room. By handing Roethlisberger a signing bonus which would be spread out cap-wise over the length of his new deal, the Steelers could create extra cap space.

Roethlisberger set career-highs in completions (452), pass attempts (675), passing yards (5,129), and touchdowns (34) this past season. Advanced metrics lauded Roethlisberger’s work, as well, as he finished fourth in Total QBR and eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger ranked fifth in Football Outsiders‘ DYAR, which measures value over a replacement level player, and eighth in DVOA, meaning he was effective on a per-play basis.

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Extra Points: Roethlisberger, Prescott, Foles

We heard recently that the Steelers were hoping to extend Ben Roethlisberger soon, and now we have confirmation of that. Steelers owner Art Rooney recently confirmed the team intended to get a new deal done for Big Ben soon, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. “That’s certainly something that is on the agenda for this offseason,” Rooney said. Florio then dove into what a potential new contract for Roethlisberger, who has one year left on his current deal, would look like. Florio thinks Roethlisberger and his reps will demand “at least $28 million per year”, and points out that his current deal only paid him an average of $21.85 MM per year, far below market value. He also writes that Roethlisberger could choose to just play it year to year and make the Steelers franchise tag him for the next couple of seasons if they’re unwilling to meet his demands.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of quarterback extensions, Dak Prescott will need one soon as well. 2019 will be the last year of his rookie contract, and what kind of extension the Cowboys offer him will be one of the more interesting contract developments this offseason. Former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry took a look at all of Dallas’ options, and came to the conclusion that inking Prescott to a new deal “may be a lot easier said than done.” He writes that the Cowboys may be reluctant to offer Prescott top of the quarterback market money because it would preclude them from extending other young players, but that Prescott’s agent Todd France has “a reputation for driving a hard bargain in negotiations”, and will be unlikely to back down. It’ll be fascinating to see how this one plays out, and whether Prescott ends up getting top quarterback money or has to settle for something in the lower $20MM’s.
  • Another quarterback to monitor this offseason is Nick Foles. It’s been made clear that Foles won’t be back in Philadelphia next season, but it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be traded or able to pick his own destination in free agency. Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer broke down all the scenarios for this spring, and included some telling quotes from Foles. The Eagles can exercise an option to keep Foles under contract for next year, which Foles could then void if he pays the team back $2MM, “essentially buying free agency” as Berman points out. Foles recently said “having the option to be a free agent is extremely important” indicating he would much prefer to choose his own landing spot rather than be dealt somewhere. But even if he does pay the voiding fee, the Eagles could still franchise tag him and then attempt to trade him. We should know a lot more by the start of free agency.
  • In case you missed it, the Chargers plan on extending Philip Rivers this offseason.

Steelers Expected To Extend Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger will be entering the final season of his contract in 2019, but it sounds like the Steelers quarterback may be sticking around for longer than that. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Steelers and Roethlisberger are expected to “restructure and extend” the quarterback’s deal prior to the beginning of the league year on March 13th.

In recent years, there have seemingly been whispers every offseason that the 36-year-old Roethlisberger could decide to hang up his cleats, although the veteran has hinted that he’s open to playing beyond his current contract. The Steelers did use a third-round pick on Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in this past year’s draft, but that wouldn’t necessarily prevent Roethlisberger from playing another handful of seasons. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes that team president Art Rooney II previously said that he’d like to ink Roethlisberger to one more contract.

Despite being up there in age, the veteran quarterback set career-highs in completions (452), pass attempts (675), passing yards (5,129), and touchdowns (34) this past season. Roethlisberger has taken an absolute beating throughout his career, and his 24 sacks in 2018 was his highest total since 2014. Still, the signal-caller managed to play in all 16 games for the first time since (of course) 2014.

The quarterback signed an extension with Pittsburgh back in 2015, and he’s set to have a cap charges of $23.2MM. As Schefter notes, an extension could open up some extra cap space for the Steelers, perhaps making an Antonio Brown trade more tolerable.

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Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

Not only did the Steelers produce a six-Pro Bowler team that just missed the playoffs, they are dealing with another soap opera-esque plot development involving a superstar player. Antonio Brown has been unhappy for a while, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, and a Steelers source informed him the situation has “gotten worse” in 2018.

Reports Brown went AWOL on the Steelers last week have now led to teammates doubting if he was legitimately injured. Some, per NFL.com’s Aditi Kinkabwala (on Twitter), are skeptical. Mike Tomlin said the Steelers ordered a Brown MRI because of knee pain but that the All-Pro wide receiver did not show up for the exam. This has ignited Brown trade rumors, and players from other teams are making pitches.

As for a trade scenario, the Steelers would eat a $21MM dead-money hit in 2019 by shipping Brown elsewhere. This cap hit could be spread over multiple years if a deal occurs after June 1. As Tom Pelissero of NFL.com points out (via Twitter), no cap ramifications exist after 2019 — barring a post-June 1 trade — but the issue of trading the best player on the team may pose a problem for Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense. The Steelers, who frequently put money on future caps via restructures, have $28MM-plus in projected 2019 cap space.

One Steelers source’s working theory about Brown’s Week 17 actions is forcing JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was voted team MVP, to act as Pittsburgh’s top receiver, per Fowler. Smith-Schuster took a major leap forward this season, his receiving average shooting up from 65.5 yards per game to 89.1 per contest. Smith Schuster’s 1,426 yards topped Brown’s total (1,297), making it the first time Brown has not led the Steelers in receiving since 2012.

Brown still made the Pro Bowl and remains an elite pass-catcher, commanding top attention from defenses and creating better matchups for his younger sidekick. Fowler adds Brown was not happy Ben Roethlisberger — the target of his latest outburst — criticized his route-running after a November loss to the Broncos.

This century, the Steelers have only made substantial long-term wide receiver commitments to Brown and Hines Ward, reaching trade agreements to unload other talented receivers and letting other capable starters walk in free agency. Brown, 31 in July, has not requested a trade. Three more seasons remaining on the four-year, $68MM extension Brown signed during the 2017 offseason. Smith-Schuster cannot be extended until after the 2019 season.

Tomlin said Drew Rosenhaus’ Sunday-morning update his client was ready to play against the Bengals — despite leaving practice and missing Saturday Steeler activities — did not go over well with him. The 12th-year Pittsburgh coach told the high-powered agent Brown playing Sunday was off the table. Tomlin did meet with Brown on Sunday morning, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required), but hasn’t met with him since.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward also criticized Brown’s actions, calling them “unacceptable,” while indicating the Steelers still want Brown on the team. Linemen’s responses to the Le’Veon Bell drama affected the Steelers earlier this year, and Bell is on his way to free agency.

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Latest On Antonio Brown, Steelers

The player with whom Brown got into a heated disagreement at Wednesday’s Steelers practice was indeed Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports (on Twitter).

Brown tossed a ball at Roethlisberger’s feet and walked out of a walkthrough, per Kaboly. This was a “fairly ugly” incident, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora (Twitter link), with Brown being viewed as the party in the wrong. The 30-year-old wideout went off over a specific (and, as of yet, unspecified) issue, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets, and has not been in the Steelers’ building in days. Roethlisberger and Brown argued, with Fowler noting Brown was the primary arguer.

It’s now believed he missed Sunday’s game against the Bengals because of this turmoil and not a knee injury.

While some of Brown’s teammates were surprised he showed up with the intention of playing Sunday, after missing meetings and a walkthrough Saturday, NFL.com’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reports (video link) others in the organization expected him to play Sunday. She confirms the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s report of Brown leaving Heinz Field at halftime.

This situation affected the Steelers’ effort in Week 17, per Kinkhabwala, who adds Brown did not show up for the Steelers’ exit meeting Monday. Mike Tomlin apparently did not address Brown’s issues today, per Kinkhabwala.

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North Notes: Big Ben, Ravens, Stefanski

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a rib injury in last week’s upset loss to the Raiders, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Big Ben actually cracked his ribs (video link). Pittsburgh was reportedly unable to make that determination during the game due to a faulty X-ray machine in Oakland, but Rapoport says the injury should not limit Roethlisberger going forward. The Steelers face a critical matchup against New England this afternoon, so they will need Roethlisberger to battle through.

The team is unlikely to have starting running back James Conner when they take on the Patriots, but Rapoport tweets that Conner should be back for next Sunday’s game in New Orleans.

Now for more from the league’s north divisions:

  • The Ravens have frequently seen their defensive coaches and coordinators obtain promotions from rival clubs, and they could see more of the same in 2019. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale, in his first year leading the team’s defense after six years as its linebackers coach, is garnering attention around the league as a legitimate head coaching candidate. La Canfora suggests that Martindale could even replace John Harbaugh in Baltimore if the Ravens elect to part ways with Harbaugh.
  • We heard last week that plenty of teams with expected head coaching vacancies are interested in what the Ravens plan to do with Harbaugh, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes that the buzz around Harbaugh is continuing to build. Baltimore could retain the man who may be the hottest head coaching candidate in 2019, but it could also leverage the interest in Harbaugh’s services and try to trade him.
  • La Canfora writes that Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who was just promoted to the role earlier this week, was already being considered for head coaching jobs before he took over as Minnesota’s OC. Obviously, how the club’s offense performs down the stretch and perhaps into the playoffs will go a long way towards determining Stefanski’s 2019 prospects, but La Canfora reports that teams are conducting preliminary research on him, and a strong playoff push could solidify his chances of running his own team next season.
  • Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion earlier this month, and he will miss his second consecutive game when the Bengals take on the Raiders today. As Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes, Burfict is experiencing several worrying trends. 2018 marks the third consecutive year that Burfict has served a suspension to start the season and suffered a December concussion to close it out. He has now sustained a concussion in five of the last six seasons, and between the missed time for injury and for suspension, Dehner suggests that the Bengals could be ready to move on. The league is moving away from players with Burfict’s skill set, Burfict is not playing particularly well when he is on the field these days, and the club could save $6.8MM against the cap by cutting him this offseason.

 

Injury Updates: Ekeler, Roethlisberger, Jackson, Reed

While Week 14 wasn’t nearly as bad as recent weeks in terms of carnage, there were still some significant injuries to big players today. The Chargers are already dealing with the loss of running back Melvin Gordon to an MCL injury, and may now be without his backfield mate Austin Ekeler for a while. Ekeler aggravated the stingers he’s been dealing with in the team’s win over the Bengals today, a source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Chargers play in Kansas City this Thursday night in a huge game for playoff seeding, and Schefter writes that “the short week will make it tough” for Ekeler to play.

Here are more injury updates from around the league:

  • Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half in the Steelers‘ loss to the Raiders with a rib injury, but is expected to be fine and play next week against the Patriots, Schefter writes in a separate tweet. Joshua Dobbs filled in for Roethlisberger today, and Big Ben’s absence ended up costing the team the game as they scored zero points with Dobbs under center. The Steelers are just 7-6-1 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a very tough upcoming schedule, so they’ll need Roethlisberger at full strength.
  • In the same tweet, Schefter notes that X-Rays on Lamar Jackson‘s ankle came back negative and that he’s expected to play next week against the Buccaneers. Jackson missed the final plays of the Ravens’ thrilling overtime loss to the Chiefs today, and Robert Griffin III filled in. If Jackson’s ankle ends up becoming an issue, it would further complicate the murky situation between him and Joe Flacco.
  • The Redskins have had some of the worst injury luck in the league, and got even more bad news today. Tight end Jordan Reed sprained his foot, Schefter notes, and will presumably miss some time. Reed has been plagued by injuries the past few years, but had been able to stay healthy so far this year. He’s dealt with foot injuries in the past, so this could very well wind up ending his season. The Redskins are looking to finish strong with new quarterback Josh Johnson, and this will make things significantly more difficult for the offense.

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.

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