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Ben Roethlisberger was in tears after losing to the Browns. What does his future hold?

Ben Roethlisberger was not THE problem in the Steelers’ 48-37 loss to the rival Browns, but he was a problem. And now that Pittsburgh’s season is over, his contract can now be considered the team’s biggest obstacle.

Roethlisberger’s performance against the Browns was basically a microcosm of his season. There were ugly misses and confounding decisions broken up by short, ineffective completions and rare flashbacks to the glory days. Against Cleveland, he threw for 501 yards and four touchdowns … but he needed 68 attempts (!) to get there. And his four interceptions pretty much offset all of his production.

It might be premature to call Roethlisberger completely washed up, but it’s clear that he’s no longer an asset for the Steelers. He’s no longer a quarterback worth a large chunk of a team’s cap, which is unfortunate because he’s slated to eat up a big ol’ chunk of Pittsburgh’s cap in 2021.

The exact number is $41.3 million.


The Steelers could, of course, avoid paying all that by parting ways with their veteran quarterback. But they’d have to make that decision rather quickly, as Ben has a $15 million roster bonus due on March 19. If Pittsburgh decides to cut or trade him before then, they can avoid paying that bonus along with his $4 million base salary.

The Steelers would, however, be stuck with $22.5 million in dead cap. That number would have been a lot smaller — $12.5 million to be exact — if the team hadn’t restructured his deal in the offseason, which created some cap space in the short term but pretty much locked the Steelers into paying Roethlisberger a lot of money in 2021.

Pittsburgh must’ve had confidence that Roethlisberger was going to come back from elbow surgery stronger than ever. If he had been more impressive in 2020, the team might have been inclined to work out an extension that spread that $41.3 million cap hit over multiple seasons. But given what we saw out of No. 7 this season, it might be better to rip the band-aid off and just deal with the short-term pain it would cause.

There’s always a chance Roethlisberger makes the decisions for the Steelers and calls it a career. The scene after the Browns game certainly makes that seem like a possibility.

Ben hanging it up wouldn’t save the team any money, but it would save the team from cutting one of its all-time greatest players. No matter what happens, it’s going to be a rough ending to a fruitful partnership.

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