LATROBE, Pa. (AP) – The Pittsburgh Steelers want to reward Ben Roethlisberger for the two Super Bowls he’s already won while also making sure the talent around their quarterback is good enough to make a legitimate run at a third ring.
Doing both at the same time isn’t an option, at least not this year.
Steelers president Art Rooney II said Friday the team is putting off awarding Roethlisberger a lengthy – and certainly lucrative – extension until the offseason so it can focus on improving a roster that has missed the playoffs each of the past two years.
Pittsburgh typically renegotiates with its starting quarterback when there are two years remaining on the current deal. Roethlisberger is about to enter the penultimate season of an eight-year, $102 million contract he signed before the 2008 season.
While Rooney is adamant about making sure Roethlisberger is a Steeler for the remainder of his career, putting something together in 2015 makes more fiscal sense than ironing something out before the 2014 opener against Cleveland.
Rooney pointed out a likely uptick in the salary cap next spring and Roethlisberger’s own competitive desire as the main reasons behind the decision to wait.
“Ben wants to be part of a winning team, to be in a position to compete for championships, and he understands that in order to do that we need to try to keep as many of the other players around as we can,” Rooney said. “So, addressing the players who are going into the final years of their contracts in 2014 makes sense.”
The Steelers signed All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey to a six-year, $48 million deal at the end of minicamp in June. Several other players in the final year of their contracts, including outside linebacker Jason Worilds, could be in position for significant paydays.
Rooney approached Roethlisberger with the plan before Pouncey’s contract was announced.
“I think Ben understands that’s our intention and the way we’d like to proceed,” Rooney said.
The 32-year-old Roethlisberger has long maintained he’d prefer to spend his entire career in Pittsburgh. He shouted down reports of his unhappiness that surfaced last fall when the Steelers were mired in a 2-6 start.
Pittsburgh rebounded with a 6-2 record in the second half, averaging 28 points a game over the final seven weeks as Roethlisberger flourished as offensive coordinator Todd Haley expanded the use of the no-huddle.
Though the Steelers lost wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in free agency, Roethlisberger remains bullish after the team signed former New Orleans wideout Lance Moore, added hulking running back LeGarrette Blount and drafted 6-foot-4 receiver Martavis Bryant.
“I want us to put a lot of points on the board,” Roethlisberger said during minicamp in June.
Roethlisberger has a base salary of $12.1 million, with a cap hit of more than $18 million in 2014 when bonuses are factored in. By NFL standards, he may be underpaid. Matt Ryan, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Tony Romo are on the list of quarterbacks – none of whom have won a championship let alone two – with more lucrative deals.
Not that Roethlisberger is much for comparing numbers. He quietly reported for his 11th training camp at Saint Vincent College on Friday and breezed through the conditioning test along with the rest of his teammates.
When he jogs onto the field on Saturday for the team’s first practice, he’ll be joined by a sea of new faces, all of whom understand what they’re facing after ceding the top spot in the AFC North to rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore.
“There is a sense of urgency,” Moore said. “We know 8-8 is not what this organization is all about. This organization is about competing for championships and we’re going to be willing to do whatever it takes to get back to that.”
Including throwing young players onto the field immediately. Bryant and fellow rookies Dri Archer, Stephon Tulloch and first-round pick Ryan Shazier will be asked to make significant contributions, a marked departure from how the typically veteran-laden Steelers like to work.
Letting the kids take their time is no longer an option.
Asked if the staff will slow down installing the offense and defense to give the rookies time to get adjusted to life in the NFL, coach Mike Tomlin shook his head.
“It’s their job to catch up,” he said.
NOTES: Safety Mike Mitchell and RB Alvester Alexander were placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list on Friday due to groin injuries. Tomlin expects both players to be out at least a week. … OL Ramon Foster and P Adam Podlesh were excused from the conditioning test. Foster is dealing with a death in the family while Podlesh is awaiting the birth of his child.