Training camp is happening again this year, yadda yadda, players are moving into dorms, etc.
The big news today is that Ben Roethlisberger, who has two years left on his contract, will not get an extension until next summer at least. Steelers.com naturally spins this as a great courtesy to the franchise quarterback, promising him more money if he waits another year.
I don’t see it that way at all. I see Kevin Colbert preparing for the worst.
We all understand the way Ben plays football. He takes hits. He’s been hurt. He’s a ramblin’, scramblin’ quarterback whose knack for extending plays helped the Steelers win one Superbowl and basically carried them to a second. He is 32 years old. How long is he going to keep playing?
Right now, He’s signed through age 34. How much money would you want to commit not only to Ben as he is now, but as he will be in the twilight of his career with two extra seasons of damage on his body? I do believe that the Steelers have every intention of seeing Ben retire in black and gold. Franchise quarterbacks certainly don’t grow on trees, and the Rooneys know well what it feels like to sit atop a franchise with no true offensive leader. (Apologies to all the Mark Malone fans out there, if you exist)
Despite the Steelers’ recent downward trend, I still believe that Kevin Colbert is a smart man. I believe that Dan and Art Rooney are smart men. I think everyone involved understands that the clock is ticking on Ben Roethlisberger’s career. They would never say it publicly, but they are preparing for the next era in Pittsburgh already.
Giving Ben a six year extension (or whatever he’s after) can only be a detriment down the line. It’s almost impossible to imagine a 38 year old Ben Roethlisberger still slinging footballs around to Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. If Ben sustains a serious injury this year, which is possible if not likely, it could destroy his value when it comes to his next contract. Why would the Steelers commit multiple years and several million dollars to a player when they might be able to negotiate him down to two years and ten million (again, or whatever) by waiting it out?
It may not be the most honorable thing to do for the man who revitalized the Steelers’ offense in the 2000s, but the Steelers aren’t in the business of being honorable. They are in the business of winning. Keeping Ben on a short contract for the time being gives them the best odds. Maybe he stays healthy, plays great, and gets a massive extension anyway. That would be awesome, and it’s what I’m hoping for. But it’s not something that management is willing to bank on, nor should they.
It’s cold, but it’s football. The Steelers are making the right call here.