Even though Ben Roethlisberger hasn't committed to returning next season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly expecting to have him as their starting quarterback in 2021.
Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo (h/t NFL.com's Adam Maya), there is "optimism" in the Steelers organization that Roethlisberger will return.
In addition, Garafolo noted the Steelers will work with Roethlisberger to restructure his contract and reduce his $41 million cap hit for next season.
Following Pittsburgh's 48-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Wild Card Game last week, Roethlisberger indicated he would be willing to return.
"I hope the Steelers want me back if that's the way we go," Roethlisberger said. "There will be discussions, but this isn't the time for that."
Retirement talk has hovered around Roethlisberger for years. His wife, Ashley, said on a YouTube series Bigger than Ben in August (h/t ESPN's Brooke Pryor) that she had a discussion with her husband about his career after an elbow injury limited him to two games during the 2019 season:
"I wanted him to hear me and mark my words, not going to bring it up again, but if he felt content where he was with the career that he's had and it's on his heart to just be done, I would support him 100% in that. He doesn't have to worry about my feelings in all that. I want what he wants. I was basically just handing him permission to retire if that's where his heart was and I was going to support him in that.
"And he listened, and you could tell he really took it to heart and thought. And he said, 'Thank you, but I don't feel done. I'm not done.'"
Roethlisberger had a successful 2020 season. He threw for 3,803 yards with 33 touchdowns and a 65.6 completion percentage in 15 games.
A first-round draft pick in 2004, Roethlisberger has spent his entire 17-year career in Pittsburgh. The 38-year-old has been named to the Pro Bowl six times and won two Super Bowls.
The Steelers won the AFC North with a 12-4 record before being eliminated from the postseason by the Browns.