It certainly pears that a high-stakes game of chicken is threatening between the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger. Wondering who spins first?
So far, the pages are doing the dance through the media in remarks from ownership and coach Mike Tomlin and most recently general manager Kevin Colbert about the situation between the team and its Hall of Fame quarterback. Roethlisberger has also sent a message through the media to be open to recasting his deal, but things get a little more hazy when it comes to the actual question of the $ 19 million left on his contract and what his actual market value would be.
Big Ben, you see, is not looking for a raise … And honestly, how could he get the way his 2020 season collapsed in the second half? Regular readers of this space know my feelings about the quarterback – he’s one of the key figures in the story of this iconic franchise, but his days as a high performing QB are over, his physical limitations are acute and I would move away from him, it eats $ 24 million. c hit and shows a willingness to take a step back in 2021 – with serious pay c and list problems underway – to reorganize the organization for the future, beginning with possible expansions for TJ Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
It remains to be seen what Rooney’s thinks of Roethlisberger, though the way things have played out so far would make some people think they have reservations about handing out an additional $ 19 million. For if they did not, a simple restructuring of the contract would have already gone down, the tone of the announcement from the team officials would be very different and there would be a simpatico sound from everyone involved.
Ben is our guy. He has a contract. We lower the c number. Nothing to see here.
But, compared to the countless other times this team has been in this mess with this player, things are definitely different this time. The film over the last two months of the season told a sordid story – one that club officials seemed reluctant to embrace under the heat of their playoff push, but one that looks even worse about the dead of winter. Tough decisions are required everywhere for a team that went through three months of flirting with greatness and an unbeaten season before being outclassed most every week, often by teams that they usually quickly dispose of.
And the fact that all communication takes place deep in February through the media and not directly between these parties tells me that some of what needs to be said will be unpleasant, awkward as opposed to everything these parties have been through with each other before. No one seems to enjoy it, and it certainly goes far beyond just converting a piece of base salary into yet another signing bonus. To this point, I am told that no one has different marching orders from ownership on exactly how to proceed. But it must come and soon.
Will they ask Roethlisberger to leave millions on the table to return, lower his c and cash, and add invalid years to promote the c savings? Hard to read the situation to this point and not anticipate it as a real possibility. Would Roethlisberger be open to that? Could this come sideways?
I have a hard time believing that – as he enters his 39-year season and years removed from playing at a consistently high level – Roethlisberger would have a market for something close to $ 19 million. Next year. C is flat at best, quarterback options abound – two significant trades for QBs have already been completed – at least four more will be selected in the first round this spring, and options are also available in free agency.
Bruce Arians loves Big Ben, but does not need another 40-QB. The Panthers are desperate for a QB upgrade, and owner David Tepper saw Ben at his best from his time as a minority owner of the Steelers – but if the Rooney’s blanch over this price, Tepper in no way sees Roethlisberger as a solution to his QB problem. The 49ers are sniffing around to upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo, but Ben is not fit there.
The Saints are waiting for Drew Brees to retire, but the transition to another QB nearing the end is not where Sean Payton’s mind is. The Bears do not have a starter … but are stuck with Nick Foles. The Dolphins had a 38-year-old out there last year in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and if you want to do the thing for them and Big Ben, I guess you could, but it’s challenging to come up with a natural fit where he could improve a team with some meaningful hopes of competing.
Which brings us back to Pittsburgh. The only place I could see him play in 2021. If they can sort out the contract, it seems no one seems to be that excited about it.
Deciphering the (faux) Fields drama
Prepare to hear a lot about Justin Fields and all his limitations and problems reading the field and reviewing progress.
It is already a prominent talking point in the Scout community, and already several general leaders I have spoken to are wondering if it is not a campaign organized by teams hoping to create a scenario where he comes out of the top three choice, perhaps even beyond that. You can not talk to anyone about this quarterback draft without the conversation quickly turning to Fields and where he fits in.
“Are people really that down on this child?” asked a GM who is very serious about taking a QB. “I do not know what to make of it. He had a game he wanted back. Is it some kind of sin now? I do not buy it.”
Another GM asked me a smart question about Fields. “Let’s say Trevor Lawrence was not in this draft. He’s going to school. No matter what. So who’s the first choice in the draft? Who’s taking Urban Meyer? Justin Fields.”
Ohio State quarterback would be the best choice in the draft. In the end, I see him go as high as expected, but with lots of (faux) drama in between. Like Tua Tagovailoa stuff from last year again. For what would a move be without this waste? Maybe the Jets are auctioning off the second pick and Fields is going there. Or maybe Miami does the same at 3. I do not see a scenario where some teams that pick in teens who love the child actually get a chance to neighbor him, but I suppose this is something I am asked about 500 times between now and late ril.
Several insider notes
- Will the Broncos be able to find a way to pick up Von Miller’s opportunity as a means of dealing with him? It seems to make the most sense to me, albeit clouded by the uncertainty about his potential legal issues and injuries. With a little pass-rush available, and this option not crazy by current standards, I reckon there is a market for him if Denver chooses to go that route …
- All the focus on Baltimore’s efforts to tackle Orlando Brown, Jr., has hidden some from another pressing case on its offensive line. Left-back Bradley Bozeman performed at a very high level last season, handing over some of the best qualities of any Ravens lineman and getting high marks from similar PFFs. His ability to pull and block downfield as well as pass protect makes him very valuable, especially since the Ravens seem to fill other gaps on that line. They also desperately need a center – Bozeman played center in Alabama, and the coaches have at times discussed a positional contact with him – and tying Bozeman long-term will look even better when c starts jumping again. He and his wife, Nikki, have also become fixtures in the community with their tireless charity work, including a Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination. An extension must be a priority …
- Don’t expect teams running out to tag franchise players on Thursday when the window opens. So much uncertainty around c, and with two weeks to ply the tag, I would expect even less initial urgency than usual.