Art Rooney II, Ben Roethlisberger in agreement: Steelers QB to return for 18th season

CHRIS ADAMSKI
The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Ben Roethlisberger

The long-anticipated meeting between the president and franchise player of the Pittsburgh Steelers finally took place Tuesday. And the two are in agreement that their on-field relationship should continue for at least one more season.

In a statement released via the verified Twitter account of Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten, Art Rooney II termed a Tuesday morning discussion between he and Ben Roethlisberger as "a productive meeting." Per Rooney's statement, Rooney told Roethlisberger the team wants him back for the 2021 season, and the soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback expressed he wants to continue playing, too.

Still, the sides have not yet come to an agreement on the status of Roethlisberger's contract, one that is scheduled to pay him $19 million this season — $4 million in base salary and a $15 million bonus due next month.

"We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go," Rooney's statement read. "Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship.

"We both understand that the next step is to work out Ben's contract situation."

Roethlisberger's agent, Ryan Tollner, told the NFL Network on Tuesday that the two-time Super Bowl-winning QB is "happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible."

Tollner did not return multiple messages left for him by the Tribune-Review.

Roethlisberger set the team record for games played for the Steelers last season, his 17th with the team since being a first-round pick in 2004. But his play slipped — as did the team's on whole — after an 11-0 start that had some stumping for Roethlisberger as an MVP candidate around Thanksgiving last year.

The Steelers lost five of their last six, including a humiliating home playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns. Roethlisberger threw four interceptions in that game and 10 over his final seven games.

No matter how Roethlisberger's contact situation is resolved, more than $22 million needs to be accounted for on the Steelers' 2021 salary cap in his name. A $19 million compensation package is well within market rate for a veteran quarterback, though the Steelers could be angling for a reduction. Roethlisberger's agent went on record last month that salary was not a priority.

The Steelers also could, as Tollner put it, "creatively adjust" the contract to keep Roethlisberger's 2021 compensation at $19 million but spread the salary-cap hit out over as many as three years.

The Steelers remain over the NFL cap, though have several avenues with which to be in compliance before the start of the league year next month. They have 19 free agents, including 10 who can be considered significant contributors.

Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are other quarterbacks on the roster.