In case you haven't heard, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are interested in working together again in 2021.
After successive reports revealing each of the two parties' desires earlier this week and a statement released by the team regarding the matter, Steelers president Art Rooney II spoke publicly of Pittsburgh's approach to getting this whole contract thing figured out with their future Hall of Fame quarterback. The most important detail: There's a relatively short window -- which essentially would close with the start of the new league year -- for striking an agreement.
"Hopefully we'll work something out before that," Rooney said, via Steelers.com, "but certainly if you want to say there's a hard deadline, March 17 would be it."
The beginning of a league year is typically when many roster bonuses trigger for players across the league. Roethlisberger is no different, as his $14 million roster bonus hits on March 19.
The Steelers will need to find a way to restructure before then to avoid the current contract accounting for its astronomical cap hit of $41.25 million.
"We have been in communication with Ben throughout the offseason, and we have been clear that we would like him back but we needed to do something with the contract," Rooney said. "We're getting to that point now where the time is right. We have a better idea of where the salary cap is going to be, which is an important component of the decision. It just felt like it was time to sit down with Ben and have a good discussion, make sure the lines of communication are open."
That part has been taken care of. But the calculators, pencils and spreadsheets should now cover the desks of those in charge of figuring out how to rework Roethlisberger's deal. As all parties involved have said, the Steelers have to find a way to remain competitive while also fitting the quarterback's deal under the tightened salary cap, which begins with a floor of $180 million.
As it stands, the Steelers are roughly $19 million over the cap floor. Should they receive some relief in the form of a slightly higher final cap total, things might get a bit easier on the Roethlisberger front.
That would help build some momentum for Roethlisberger's return in 2021, which isn't quite being billed as a revenge tour but clearly carries themes of redemption following Pittsburgh's shocking loss to the Cleveland Browns on Super Wild Card Weekend.
"We think Ben played at a high level last year," Rooney said. "We won our division and set a franchise record for most consecutive wins to open a season, so there was a lot of good stuff. Ben was as disappointed as anybody the way it ended. That last game is just hard to swallow, and I think in part Ben wants to come back and leave on a high note. We're still confident he has the ability to do that.
"His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he's certainly capable of getting the job done. Part of the concern is putting a (competitive) team around him, and we had a good discussion about that. We know there are still a lot of pieces to the puzzle that still have to fall into place this season, and we're hard at work trying to make that happen."