Art Rooney II says the Steelers are open to extending Ben Roethlisberger's contract
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09-05-2020, 01:14 AM

Art Rooney II says the Steelers are open to extending Ben Roethlisberger's contract past 2021

Ben Roethlisberger has openly discussed playing beyond his current contract, which is set to expire after the 2021 season. On Thursday, Steelers president Art Rooney II stated that he is open to the thought of extending his quarterback's contract, assuming that Roethlisberger performs at his pre-surgery level in 2020. 

"Obviously after the season we'll evaluate his contract situation along with other contract decisions we have to make," Rooney told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic. "But if Ben feels like playing longer and it looks like he's capable of doing it, certainly that would be a great scenario."

Rooney said that he is encouraged by what he's seen from Roethlisberger during training camp. The franchise quarterback is more than 10 months removed from significant elbow surgery that sidelined him for the final 14 games of the 2019 season. 

"We're excited what we see from Ben so far in this training camp," Rooney said of Roethlisberger, who is the third highest-paid quarterback in the NFL by annual salary. "We're looking forward to what he can do this season. Certainly, his arm strength looks to be as good as it's ever been. That's a good sign."

Along with his rehab from surgery, Roethlisberger has maintained a rugged workout regiment that he says has put him at his lightest weight in over a decade. He also has been throwing more this offseason than he typically does, which is why he said he was not surprised when his arm felt good a day after throwing a slew of passes during the team's first training camp practice. And while he knows that he can't run around as he did in his early 20s, Big Ben agrees with general manager Kevin Colbert's previous comments about Roethlisberger possibly being a better version of himself following surgery. 

"I do think that I can be better than I've been in the past," Roethlisberger said during training camp. "Not dealing with a nagging elbow is definitely something. To feel healthy, to feel more in shape, things like that [help]. Obviously, you can't turn back Father Time and feel like I'm 21 and run all over the field, but I think you can go on the field, even at an older age, and still feel really good, and I feel that way right now."

Along with the work he's put in, Roethlisberger is encouraged by the Steelers' offseason additions of receivers coach Ike Hilliard and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. Big Ben said the new coaches will be able to help communicate more ideas that offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner can integrate into the offense. In terms of personnel, Roethlisberger said that the addition of former Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron can make the Steelers' offense more versatile, specifically when Pittsburgh has Ebron and fellow tight end Vance McDonald on the field at the same time. 

"I think having both those guys, as playmakers on the field at the same time, can create some matchup problems for the defense," Roethlisberger said. "You kind of can dictate what the defense does or gives you in terms of personnel. If they want to match up, then you can throw the ball. If they want to put in smaller personnel to stop the pass, then you can run the ball. 

"Having two kind of dynamic weapons like that can still give you a lot in the run game. I think people sometimes get this perception that, 'OK, you've got two skilled receivers, you're going to use them just to pass.' I know Vance very well, and spending time with Eric the last few months, they don't want to be lumped into the bubble of just being receiving tight ends. They want to do whatever it takes; to block, to put their nose in the pile and things like that. That's encouraging ... I think we can utilize those guys on multiple fronts in terms of helping this offense."

While the Steelers are typically a trendy pick to win the AFC North while possibly representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, they currently have just the seventh-best odds at coming out of the AFC this season, according to William Hill Sports Book. The Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions, have the best odds at making it back to the Super Bowl, while the Ravens, the Steelers' longtime AFC North rival, have the second-best odds in the conference.

Along with having a 38-year-old quarterback coming back from a serious injury, consecutive non-playoff seasons are likely the main reason why the Steelers are not a trendy Super Bowl pick. The Steelers also still have questions at the skill positions, with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner coming off injury-marred 2019 campaigns. That being said, the fact that the Steelers managed to win eight games without Roethlisberger last season, should give Pittsburgh fans optimism entering 2020. When asked about trying to keep pace with both teams, Roethlisberger said that the goal is to do "whatever it takes" to win, even if that means handing the ball off 50 times a game. 

The emergence of Pittsburgh's defense last season after acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick was certainly not lost on Roethlisberger, who won two Super Bowls earlier in his career with the support of dominant defensive units.

The Steelers also gave Big Ben more offensive weapons this offseason, signing Ebron while also spending a second-round pick on former Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool. They also signed veteran offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski, a starter on Philadelphia and Kansas City's Super Bowl-winning teams. The Steelers also like what they've seen from second-year running back Benny Snell Jr., who has appeared to be faster in camp after shedding some weight during the offseason. 

While some of the names have changed, Roethlisberger likes the makeup of the 2020 Steelers, a team that is looking to end the franchise's two-year playoff drought. 

"I think this year's team is special because we've got a good of guys who have kind of come up together now," Roethlisberger said during the second episode of his recently-released documentary. "We're not a young team anymore. We've got some older players, some veteran guys who are in the 10, 11-year range, and we've all been together for a while now. And we've got a good mix of second, third, fourth-year guys that are really talented. So, you kind of get that good combination of older guys and younger guys that believe in each other. This team is as much about each other as any team that I've been a part of." 

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(This post was last modified: 09-05-2020, 01:15 AM by Chucktownsteeler.)

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