Ben Roethlisberger doesn't want to think about the decision he might have to make a year from now.
If the Steelers don't sign him to a new contract, might he play out the final season of his deal and become a free agent?
“I have no clue,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday. “All I worry about is playing ball in Pittsburgh and giving it everything I have.
“If my agent (Ryan Tollner) says something relevant comes up — (Tollner and the Steelers) are probably talking and doing small talk — then let me know. If not, I don't care.”
Team president Art Rooney II said in January the Steelers are determined to have Roethlisberger play his entire career in Pittsburgh, and the quarterback said he intends to do exactly that, but no deal appears imminent.
If a contract isn't finalized before the Sept. 7 opener against Cleveland, there would be no negotiations during the season, per team policy. Then the Steelers would be in the potentially precarious situation of having a franchise quarterback signed for only one more season.
Even at age 34, as Roethlisberger would be entering free agency, he likely is to have multiple suitors offering major money for a two-time Super Bowl winner.
Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Eli Manning are the only current quarterbacks with more than one Super Bowl victory, yet 10 other QBs own bigger contracts than Roethlisberger. And 10 others have larger annual salaries.
Consider this: Jay Cutler's $126.7 million contract is worth nearly $40 million more than Roethlisberger's deal, which will pay him $12.1 million this season and $11.6 million in 2015.
However, paying Roethlisberger commensurate with the top-scale quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning among them — could prove difficult for the perennially salary cap-challenged Steelers. Roethlisberger hasn't suggested what it would take to sign to him to what likely will be his final contract or how much of a hometown discount, if any, he is willing to accept.
And while Roethlisberger insists he doesn't want to play anywhere else — he laughed off reports last season that he might want to be traded — he wasn't happy with the 8-8 seasons of 2012 and '13 or the Steelers' decision to bypass a receiver in the first three rounds of this month's NFL Draft.
In January, general manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers needed to give Roethlisberger the players he needed to excel. But they didn't land any of the elite receivers — Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and, possibly, Kelvin Benjamin and Marqise Lee — who helped make this draft one of the best in decades.
At the time, Roethlisberger said he was upset.
“I got caught up in doing what I always say not to do, and that's listen to the media,” Roethlisberger said. “(The Steelers) obviously have their agenda, the things they want, and they got two guys that they felt can help this team” in running back-receiver Dri Archer (third round) and receiver Martavis Bryant (fourth round).
Roethlisberger is not the only quarterback from the 2004 draft who could become a free agent in 2016. Manning (No. 1), Philip Rivers (No. 4) and Roethlisberger (No. 11) — the first three quarterbacks chosen in 2004 — are signed through 2015.
“I'd like to be here for the rest of my career,” Roethlisberger said. “Whenever that is.”