The Steelers have made clear that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be back on his current contract, but owner Art Rooney II insists that’s a reflection only of the salary cap, and not of how Roethlisberger is playing.
Rooney said the Steelers still believe that Roethlisberger is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.
“We think Ben played at a high level last year,” Rooney told Steelers.com. “We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We’re still confident he has the ability to do that. His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he’s certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a [competitive] team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we’re hard at work trying to make that happen.”
Both Roethlisberger and Rooney have expressed confidence that they can come to terms on a new contract. Still, Rooney acknowledged that the Steelers will not go into the 2021 league year with Roethlisberger on his current contract. That means if a deal can’t get done before the league year starts, Roethlisberger would be released.
“Hopefully we’ll work something out before that,” said Rooney, “but certainly if you want to say there’s a hard deadline, March 17 would be it.”
At this point, all parties are indicating a deal will get done. But that March 17 deadline looms.