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Mark Madden's Hot Take: Steelers making it hard for Ben Roethlisberger to return – TribLIVE


Three weeks ago, Steelers owner Art Rooney II said there was “work to be done” regarding the adjustment of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to afford a more amenable cap figure than the current charge of $41.25 million for 2021.

Roethlisberger responded by saying, “I don’t care about my pay at all this year.”

That statement is a whopper of a lie, and will be tested.

The Steelers’ intent seems to be to nudge Roethlisberger out the door, preferably with him “retiring” in the same spirit offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did in 2011 (but without joining another team).

You remember Arians. He just coached Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl win.

GM Kevin Colbert spoke ominously about Roethlisberger Wednesday. Words like “could,” “hopefully” and “what’s best for the organization” translate to “sayonara.” An endorsement of Roethlisberger’s return was pointedly avoided.

Let’s see who blinks. But Roethlisberger seems done.

The Steelers figure to lowball Roethlisberger financially. He’s due $19 million for 2021. Here’s betting the Steelers offer less than half that in hope that Roethlisberger quits.

The idea is to make Roethlisberger the bad guy on his way out the door. If he refuses to accept a gratuitous pay cut, mission accomplished. Roethlisberger’s verbiage upon departure would likely suit that purpose, too, because he can’t help himself.

The only way Roethlisberger can double-cross the Steelers is by accepting a minuscule offer. It would be interesting to see what the Steelers do then.

All this makes sense from the Steelers’ viewpoint.

Even with Roethlisberger, the Steelers aren’t a playoff team. It’s better to go 5-11 than 8-8 because of the draft advantages. If Roethlisberger plays, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will be able to use a mere fraction of his preferred scheme. At 38, Roethlisberger clearly faltered down the stretch: In his last seven games, Roethlisberger’s passer rating cracked 90 just once and he threw 10 interceptions. At 39, he won’t finish stronger.

It makes sense to not bring back Roethlisberger.

But after 17 seasons, a Hall-of-Fame career and two Super Bowl wins, isn’t Roethlisberger at least owed honesty? If you don’t want him, cut him. Don’t do this dance.

But this is how the Steelers operate. Always have. They don’t care about fracturing relationships if it suits their agenda, even if those relationships are with franchise legends. Look at what happened with Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.

Only one name matters with the Steelers. That name is Rooney.

The Steelers have won six Super Bowls. They have 23 players and two coaches in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

There’s one statue. It’s Art Rooney Sr., the team’s founder and original owner. If there’s a next one, it won’t be a player. It will be Dan Rooney, Art Sr.’s son and Art II’s father.

There’s an Immaculate Reception monument, too. It honors Harris’ iconic moment. But Harris went to Seattle in 1984 when he was poised to break Jim Brown’s NFL career rushing record. The Steelers lowballed Harris on money, then cut him. He had gained 1,007 yards in 1983. Coach Chuck Noll ushered Harris out of Pittsburgh by saying, “Franco who?”

Only one name matters.

By the way, when Roethlisberger is asked to take a pay cut, yinz militantly expect him to do what’s best for the team.

When JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and past dolts unleash a non-stop torrent of stupidity in the name of branding that damages the culture, creates distraction, motivates the opposition and makes the franchise and coach Mike Tomlin look dumb, they get support because they’re having fun and living their best lives. Why don’t yinz want them to do what’s best for the team?

I’ll hang up and listen.

Categories: Mark Madden Columns | Sports | Steelers/NFL


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