Ben Roethlisberger Wants to Return to Steelers in 2021: 'The Fire Burns Strong'

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 23, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) takes a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Ben Roethlisberger is preparing to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021, his agent Ryan Tollner told NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.

Aditi Kinkhabwala @AKinkhabwala

Ben Roethlisberger will indeed be back as the #Steelers starting QB this fall. Just connected w/ the two-time Super Bowl winner’s agent, Ryan Tollner, who said this: https://t.co/YnWRWwkbeM

Tollner said there's "plenty of gas in the tank" for the 38-year-old and the "fire burns strong" after the Steelers fell apart in a Wild Card Round loss to the Cleveland Browns

Now the two sides will just have to find a way to make the salary-cap situation work. 

Field Yates @FieldYates

In the event that Ben Roethlisberger is not with the Steelers in 2021, he'll still count for $22.25M against their cap. On his current deal, he's set to count $41.25M. As both sides have acknowledged, a return would need a restructured deal that brings that number down.

The Steelers would need to restructure Roethlisberger's deal for him to fit on the roster from a payroll standpoint. Pittsburgh is expected to begin free agency $6 million over the current salary cap, per Spotrac. The new cap has not been announced yet, and it's possible the franchise may have to cut more players to become compliant. 

That made Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert give a rather non-committal answer to reporters last week about the QB's future.

"As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers," Colbert said. "... He reiterated to us that he wants to continue to play. We told him we have to look at this current situation."

Pittsburgh could save up $19 million by releasing Roethlisberger if the team is unable to restructure his deal. 

Part of the problem of releasing the Ohio native is that the Steelers don't have the best options at the position—especially as they attempt to contend in 2021. 

Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins and Joshua Dobbs are listed on the depth chart behind Roethlisberger, but none have done much to distinguish themselves on the field since reaching the NFL. Rudolph is 5-4 as a starter for his career with 2,089 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 15 games to go with a passer rating of 82.7. 

Haskins was cut by the Washington Football Team in December 2020 after it drafted him No. 15 overall in 2019, in part, for not meeting team standards. 

The desire by both Roethlisberger and the Steelers to make a deal work is a major first step. Getting that contract done will become the bigger challenge in the days ahead.