Will the Steelers consider trading Ben Roethlisberger in the offseason?
UPDATE (6 p.m. ET): After the Steelers' Week 10 win over Buffalo, Roethlisberger emphatically shot down the rumor that he's asked the Steelers to trade him:
Ben Roethlisberger on report he wants #Steelers to trade him: "Completely unacceptable. One of the most BS stories I've ever heard."
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) November 10, 2013
UPDATE (2:15 p.m. ET): Ben Roethlisberger's agent denied that the Steelers' QB is unhappy in Pittsburgh.
Art Rooney also denied that the team is looking to shop Roethlisberger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent the past two offseasons shedding veteran players due to salary-cap woes, with the subsequent on-field results being disappointing at best. Could they try a different, far more drastic approach once the 2013 season concludes?
It's possible, according to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who reported Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning that the Steelers might consider dealing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger next offseason, if they "could replace [him] with a franchise quarterback" in the draft.
That is a pretty substantial "if" -- especially if the Steelers wind up behind QB-needy teams like Jacksonville, Minnesota and others in the draft order. Still, as has been covered before, the 2014 class could be loaded with talented quarterbacks. Roethlisberger still has two years left on his current contract, with $12.1 million in base salary due next season and $11.6 million in '15.
"Ben Roethlisberger is not happy," Rapoport said. "[He's] incredibly frustrated with the direction the franchise is headed."
The Steelers made the playoffs in six of Roethlisberger's first eight seasons, with two Super Bowl victories. They missed out on the postseason last year with an 8-8 mark and currently sit at 2-6, well back in the AFC race.
The issues have been prevalent on both sides of the football -- Pittsburgh ranks 25th in points scored and 23rd in points allowed -- but the team's struggles along the offensive line have made life miserable for Roethlisberger as of late. As such, Rapoport added that the Steelers could explore "wholesale offensive changes" after 2013, with coordinator Todd Haley likely the first to land on the chopping block.
Rapoport also reported that the Steelers fielded trade offers for Roethlisberger last offseason. (They drafted Oklahoma QB Landry Jones in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.) CBS' Jason La Canfora reported that he was "told adamantly" that Pittsburgh never put Roethlisberger on the block prior to this season.
According to OvertheCap.com, which tracks NFL contracts, the Steelers are on track to have slightly more than $134 million committed to its 2014 roster. The cap this season landed right around $122 million; it is projected to stay relatively flat for the 2014 season. Pittsburgh already has had to jettison several key players recently, including linebacker James Harrison, James Farrior and Willie Colon, plus sat out the bidding on former free agent WR Mike Wallace. The Steelers' current 2-6 record has them tied with Houston, Atlanta and the Giants for the fourth-worst mark in the league. Minnesota (2-7), Jacksonville and Tampa Bay (both 0-8) round out the bottom of the league standings.