Last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to terms on a head-spinning two-year, $63 million contract extension with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The deal includes a $37.5 million signing bonus and an additional $30 million in injury guarantees.
When healthy, the 38-year-old vet is still as productive as any gunslinger in the NFL. However, as things stand the Steelers have just $5.7 million in cap space, which ranks 28th in the league. The sheer obligations of Big Ben’s contract could make it difficult for Pittsburgh to retain some key players.
Here are three players to keep an eye on in that department if Roethlisberger doesn’t restructure his contract.
Following a breakout campaign, the Steelers smartly placed the franchise tag on Dupree. Retaining the 27-year-old defensive end would evidently go a long way to keeping Pittsburgh’s elite defense intact, but the organization doesn’t presently flaunt the necessary funds to accomplish that beyond 2020. After all, Roethlisberger’s contract carries a monster $41.25 million cap hit in 2021. Will Dupree be gone next year?
Fitzpatrick’s rookie contract won’t expire until after the 2021 season, but if he posts another superb campaign this year, he’ll absolutely be looking to cash in the following offseason. The Steelers gave up this year’s first-round pick to acquire the 23-year-old stud from Miami last season, so inking him to a contract extension is simply a must. However, Fitzpatrick will look to become one of the wealthiest defensive backs in the NFL, and rightfully so. As of right now, Pittsburgh just doesn’t have the resources to get a deal done, and the longer the team waits, the more likely it becomes that the former Alabama star looks for greener pastures.
What a beast Watt proved to be for the Steelers in 2019. For the season, the third-year pro compiled 14.5 sacks, 36 QB hits, eight passes defended, four fumble recoveries, and a league-leading eight forced fumbles. That All-Pro campaign all but secured Watt a massive payday when the time comes. However, his rookie contract is set to expire following the 2020 campaign. If Roethlisberger doesn’t allow Pittsburgh to tinker with his deal, the organization won’t be able to retain the 25-year-old pass rusher. Because it’s worth reiterating, Big Ben has a $41.25 million cap hit next year.