Now is the time to move on from Ben Roethlisberger. That is not going to be a popular statement for Steelers Nation, or the faithful here at BTSC. Before you break out the torches and pitchforks to drive away the monster who is making such a vile statement, hear me out first.
Can Roethlisberger bounce back from major elbow surgery?
As fans, we do not know what kind of shape (besides round) Big Ben is in. The Steelers have left fans in the dark regarding the nature of the surgery. There has been rampant speculation that the surgery was the Tommy John variety, which GM Kevin Colbert did not dismiss or confirm. Such a major surgery puts his 2020 season into speculation, let alone his career. We have seen the Grizzly Adams beard and have wondered how many chins are being hidden by it. Roethlisberger has not been known for a stellar physique, even with a whole offseason to train. When will his elbow allow him to fully train and prepare for a full NFL season?
Perfect time with a quarterback rich free agency market.
I cannot think of a better time to be in the market for a potential franchise quarterback than 2020. While some may moan and groan about names such as Philip Rivers, (never missed a game) Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Case Keenum, and even Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Some quarterbacks on that list are off the table, others are not and would come in at a much cheaper price than our 15-year veteran would. Could Winston or Bridgewater resurrect their stalled careers, or at least be a bridge quarterback until the Steelers find a true franchise guy? A stagnant offense derailed the 2019 season even though the elite defense drug the inept offense to eight wins. The defense should remain intact and does not need a signal-caller who throws for 5,000 yards while leading the league in interceptions.
What has to happen to allow such bold moves?
The first aspect that has to be in play is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Why is this so important? Simply put, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to have the flexibility with their cap space not only to move on from our beloved 38-year-old quarterback. Under the current rules of the CBA, the Steelers’ hands are tied.
The current CBA disallows June 1st designations. Why is this so important? The Steelers need cap space to bring another quarterback into the organization. The only way this is accomplished is cap space. The future Hall of Famer will count $33.5 million against the cap in 2020 but not all that money is guaranteed. If the Steelers move on from Big Ben, the team would eat $25 million in dead money and save a mere $8.5 million towards the cap. With a new CBA in place, it would allow June 1st designations. What happens when a team designates a player as a Post June 1st cut, the players guaranteed signing bonus can be split over two seasons. Now that $25 million cap hit turns into $12.5 million in 2020 and $12.5 million in 2021. The move creates $21 million in cap space for 2020.
The current CBA also has a frustrating quirk to it — the 30% rule. I have talked about this extensively in the offseason as the rule is hindering the way the Steelers do business. In a nutshell, a player who signs a new contract has to have his contract structured so they cannot be back-loaded through 2023. Let’s say Pittsburgh signed Bridgwater to a four-year deal. If 2020 was $10 million, 2021 could not be higher than $13 million, 2022 could not be higher than $16 million, and 2023 could not be higher than $19 million. The new CBA would eliminate the rule and return the Steelers’ ability to work contracts like they normally would.
I love Ben as much as the rest of you, but this is a purely business decision. The career year he had in 2018 was because of being the most imbalanced team in the NFL throwing passes for over 70 percent of offensive snaps. Does he really have another 5,000 yards in him or will he top those 16 interceptions because of inactivity and being out of shape? What if Ben is not ready at the start of the 2020 season? The team surely does not have any cap space to go out and grab a decent backup. Now the team would be forced to watch Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges duke it out for who gets thrown to the wolves? No thanks, we saw how that played out last season. That tandem is better served riding the pine and learning.
The time is now to turn the page and snag a quarterback to start for a year or two, or possibly become the next franchise quarterback, while the Steelers have arguably the best defense in the NFL.