Will Ben Roethlisberger come back to the Steelers? Pittsburgh wants return, but contract stands in way

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(Getty Images)

Vince McMahon said it best: It's all about the money.

Certainly in the closing stages of his career, Ben Roethlisberger is entering the last year of his current contract with the Steelers, and many are expecting "Big Ben" to return to the Steel City for at least one more season. There is, however, a massive hurdle to clear in order to make that happen, one that may cause player and team to grapple this offseason: the money he's owed.

"Ben wants to come back," team president Art Rooney II said in his end-of-season Zoom call. "We've left that door open. I think we've been up front with Ben in letting him know that we couldn't have him back under the current contract. I think he understands we have some work to do there.

"We'll have more conversations internally, and we'll have more conversations with Ben, and we'll have to know what the cap number is to finalize some of those decisions. … But, as we said, there's a lot of work to be done if that can happen; there may need to be decisions on both ends for that to happen."

That cap hit is a whopping $41,250,000 in 2021, but the team owes Roethlisberger $19,000,000 in the upcoming season with his base salary and roster bonuses included in that number. 

The Steelers have several key free agents this offseason, including pass rusher Bud Dupree, wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, meaning the Steelers are going to have to massage their cap situation to keep the band together for one more run, if they so choose — and if Roethlisberger agrees to play ball on the contract situation.

Roethlisberger, to his credit, seems to be ready to do whatever is necessary to keep the Steelers happy:

Pittsburgh is coming off a wild-card round loss to the Browns after a 12-4 regular season that had them flirting with an undefeated record through 11 weeks. While Roethlisberger was certainly a part of that success, some question his long-term viability as a starter, leaving Rooney and the Steelers' front office in the uncomfortable situation of having to find the heir apparent at quarterback, perhaps as early as this offseason.

"I think when you look at our room, we'll have to add somebody to the room this offseason," Rooney said, via ESPN. "We'll look at all the opportunities we have to do that."

Ben Roethlisberger contract

Roethlisberger is in the final season of his two-year, $68 million contract extension with the Steelers, and he carries a cap hit of $41,250,000 for 2021. While the team wants Roethlisberger back, that number is currently difficult to navigate to re-sign certain key players and also make improvements to the squad.

The most likely outcome is that the team and Roethlisberger restructure his deal in a way that allows that $41,250,000 cap number to be spread over the coming season or two, dropping that number and making it easier on the team to work around financial restraints.

Spotrac currently has the Steelers as well over the cap at nearly $30,000,000, meaning they're going to have to make some key decisions on contracts and the like to satisfy the cap.

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