Why Pittsburgh Steelers Absolutely Must Give Ben Roethlisberger Long-Term Deal

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2014

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers calls a play in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on December 8, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There is no position as important to a team as the quarterback and there is no player more important to the Pittsburgh Steelers than Ben Roethlisberger. Since arriving in Pittsburgh, he has helped lead the Steelers to their most successful decade of football since the 1970s.

Over his 10 seasons as starting quarterback, Roethlisberger has helped lead the team to 95 wins in 142 starts, six playoff appearances, three AFC Championships and two Super Bowl championships.

In fact, he is one of just seven current quarterbacks with a Super Bowl. Seven quarterbacks out of 32.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and the Steelers have a very good quarterback in place right now. They need to keep him a part of the equation for a long time.

As it stands now, there is no danger of losing Roethlisberger, as he has two years remaining on an eight-year, $102 million contract. However, as recent history suggests, Roethlisberger should be up for a contract extension.

Even though the Steelers want him to finish his career in Pittsburgh, team president Art Rooney II told Bob Labriola of Steelers.com that the extension may not come this offseason.

I would say that (extending the quarterback’s contract when it has two years left) is not set in stone. We’ve done it in the past on a couple of occasions, but it’s not necessarily something that’s automatic. I believe we’ll get something done when it’s appropriate for both sides. I think Ben knows that it’s our intention to have him here beyond his current contract, whenever we get (an extension) done.

How far beyond his current contract? Labriola reports that if Rooney were to have his way, Roethlisberger would remain in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career:

What I would say about it is that we certainly expect Ben to be playing here beyond the current contract. When both sides are able to come together on an extension—I don’t know when that will be, and really it’s too early to say as far as if it’s this season or next but there is no doubt we look at Ben as somebody who’s going to be here for the long-term. Ben, we have to have him retire as a Steeler. There’s not a doubt about that.

If there is no doubt about it, then get a contract done now. There is no need to wait if Rooney indeed believes that Roethlisberger should retire as a Steeler.

There is no doubt that Roethlisberger has taken note of the new contracts that are being handed to quarterbacks around the league. He won’t admit it, but you’re telling me that the thought of making less than guys like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler hasn’t crossed his mind?

Earlier this season, there was a report by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport that Roethlisberger would request a trade at the end of the season.

Roethlisberger may have refuted the report, but usually when there’s smoke, there’s fire. Someone suggested the trade talk. Why potentially add to any tension between him and the team by waiting on his contract?

However, it goes beyond potentially upsetting Roethlisberger. He will not allow a contract situation to affect his play. That was evident with his performance over the second half of the season after the report came out.

It may have taken over a year of working with Todd Haley, but Roethlisberger seems to have found a system that he is comfortable with. He can play to his strengths while avoiding too many unnecessary hits.

Over the second half of the season, Roethlisberger was sacked only 11 times and played some of the best football of his career. His touchdowns were up (16) and his interceptions down (4) as the Steelers won six of their final eight games.

Ben Roethlisberger improved in many key areas over the second half of the season (Source: NFL.com).
Ben Roethlisberger improved in many key areas over the second half of the season (Source: NFL.com).Chris G.

With fewer hits taken—especially at the end of the season—Football Outsiders indicates that Roethlisberger was able to play 100 percent of the offensive snaps this season. That is exactly what Rooney had in mind back in 2012 when he wanted Roethlisberger to “tweak” his style of play.

The Steelers need Roethlisberger in their lineup and playing well if they want to be a serious competitor in the AFC. Watching him avoid hits while playing some of the best football of his career provides excitement for the future.

For the first time in years, the Steelers have a direction on offense and now have an entire offseason to refine and perfect it.

Roethlisberger will be a major part of this process, as he has to command the offense when running the no-huddle. It will be yet another step in the evolution of his career, and from everything we’ve seen, there is no doubt that he will excel moving forward in this system.

Beyond anything else, though, Roethlisberger gives the Steelers the best chance to compete for a championship on a yearly basis. For him, that is all that matters.

So it is pretty simple when it comes to signing Roethlisberger to a long-term extension.

As noted by ESPN.com's Scott Brown, Roethlisberger wants to finish his career in Pittsburgh. Rooney wants him to finish his career in Pittsburgh. With both sides in agreement, there is no reason to wait. Get the deal done and allow Roethlisberger to retire as a Steeler.


Salary information courtesy of Spotrac.com.