By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have their work cut out for them coming off consecutive non-winning seasons. It takes elbow grease to get from 8-8 to a contender, as everybody knows, of course, but this offseason, the issue is more complicated than simply improving, due to some uncommon circumstances.
Some priorities require a bit of context. It would be accurate to say that working out a contract extension with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a priority; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen this offseason.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Steelers’ priority is to decide when is best to work out that extension, because it’s certainly a mutually desired outcome for both the organization and the player.
So is this offseason the one that the Steelers should be looking to get a new deal done? Contrary to team president Art Rooney II’s perhaps disingenuous beating around the bush on the topic earlier in the month, I believe the team would like to get the extension done this offseason.
Rooney also specifically mentioned by name Jason Worilds when asked about which of the 21 unrestricted free agents the team currently has set to hit the market that the organization would like to keep. In fact, he was the only one mentioned by name, and he would also be the most expensive to retain.
Given that, and the annual salary cap problems, it’s obvious that the potential cap savings an extension could afford the Steelers this season would be very beneficial toward the team being able to retain one of their more promising young talents.
Normally, I would open up the debate as to whether the Steelers truly want to retain Worilds under a presumably substantially elevated contract, given that it would primarily be based on a half-season’s body of work for a fourth-year player.
That’s in addition to already having a high-priced former Pro Bowler and a second-year first-round draft pick already invested in the outside linebacker position. But when the team president mentions a player by name as a priority, it’s something that you have no choice but to take seriously.
Given the need for money to re-sign free agents and the lack of salary cap space, the Steelers will certainly be looking at every opportunity to chip away at their current salary cap obligations, and that naturally includes everything from restructures, cuts, salary reductions, and contract extensions.
Roethlisberger is the biggest fish to fry in that regard. In fact, many of the potential extension candidates will be upgrading to a higher pay scale, such as Maurkice Pouncey and Cameron Heyward, while other more highly compensated players are a much greater risk to commit more money to, such as Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller.
The organization has already stated emphatically that Roethlisberger has to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Roethlisberger has likewise emphatically shot down mid-season rumors about unhappiness and a potential trade by emphasizing that Pittsburgh is his home, where he intends to raise his young family.
In other words, a contract extension is already a virtual certainty, with the only variable being when it actually takes place. The Steelers could benefit by getting it done as soon as possible in order to afford to address their premium free agent before he has a chance to hit the open market in March. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to get it done before the standard of elite quarterback compensation inflates any further, with average yearly salaries now exceeding $20 million.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers Offseason Priorities – A Primer
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Finding An Offensive Line Coach
Steelers Offseason Priorities – What To Do With Woodley And Worilds
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Replenishing The WR Depth Chart
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Riding The The Defensive End Carousel