As the Pittsburgh Steelers stumbled to a 2-6 start to their 2013 season, there was some speculation that the team would consider trading franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in order to boost a rebuilding process.
Two months later, after the Steelers and Big Ben surged to a 6-2 finish, those rumblings have all but vanished. Team president Art Rooney II confirmed as much during a press conference Wednesday, saying there’s “no doubt” the team wants Roethlisberger to retire as a Steeler.
Roethlisberger, 31, has two years left on his current eight-year contract that was signed in 2008. Last time around, he and the Steelers reached an agreement on an extension with two seasons remaining on the previous deal, so it would be within reason for negotiations to start this winter.
While there may be a bit of an ulterior motive to Rooney’s public proclamation – maybe Roethlisberger is more willing to accept a smaller payout if he feels wanted in Pittsburgh – an extension would have benefits for both sides.
Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley seemed to arrive at some common ground late in the season, as No. 7 was given more leeway to run the no-huddle attack in November and December. Haley’s stated goal of inspiring Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball quickly also paid off, as Ben was rarely sacked in the final eight games and the offense moved at a more fluid tempo than in years past.
The Steelers could still feasibly draft a young quarterback this spring, but there are bigger needs on this team, especially at wide receiver and on defense. Assuming Roethlisberger sustains no major injuries and keeps himself in good shape, he should be able to stay under center for at least a few more years, especially in the QB-friendly modern era.
Judging from his level of production in 2013 – 64.2 completion percentage, 4,261 yards, 28 touchdowns – Roethlisberger has several above-average seasons left. Quarterback play is everything in the NFL, so the Steelers would be wise to hold onto a known commodity.
Roethlisberger and his agent know this, too, but there’s enough mutual respect on each side that negotiations shouldn’t be that contentious.