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Steelers GM: We have to look at Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to figure out if he can return

The Steelers have some tough decisions to make, and Ben Roethlisberger is foremost among them.

Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action against the Cleveland Browns on January 11, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some big decisions to make in the 2021 offseason and the biggest revolves around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers long-time QB has expressed interested in returning, but a huge question revolves around his contract.

Roethlisberger is due $19 million in salary and a roster bonus, but the bigger issue is $22,250,000 in previous bonus money pro-rated on the 2021 cap. It brings his total potential cap hit to $41.25 million. If the team released him or he retired, the team would clear the $19 million in cap space, but still carry $22,250,000 in dead money.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert did not sound overly optimistic — in recent comments to Brooke Pryor — in his assessment of Roethlisberger and the Steelers remaining together in 2021. He did not rule it out, but he said the team needed to consider the situation.

“As we sit here today, Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. ... He reiterated to us that he wants to continue to play. We told him we have to look at this current situation.”

When you start saying “well, he’s a Steeler right now,” that does not really offer a ton of enthusiasm. It’s not so much about whether the Steelers “want” Roethlisberger to remain their quarterback, but whether it is financially viable. Colbert noted that they would need to see what kind of team they could put together if they were to keep Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is currently projected at $30.6 million over the salary cap. They can work their way under while keeping Roethlisberger, but it won’t be easy and could require some significant cuts elsewhere.