The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided that after their last best chance to win the Super Bowl, they are going to go ahead circle the drain with the quarterback that took them there, deciding they will work to restructure Ben Roethlisberger's contract so he stays with the team for at least another season.
The Steelers didn't have much of a choice. Roethlisberger was scheduled to make $41 million this season and the team and the team needs to reduce that number as much as possible to avoid completely having to gut their team. And while Roethliberger's camp is trying to play this as some kind of altruism from the 39-year old quarterback, the only reason he's going to play another season is money. He's more than happy to let this team sink into the muck as long as he gets paid.
For the past three seasons, there have been postgame press conferences where Roethlisberger has openly contemplated retirement, complaining about his physical ability, injuries, and questioning whether he had enough desire to keep going.
Of course with a significant amount of money on the line, "the fire burns strong and there is plenty of gas in the tank," per his agent, Ryan Tollner. Where was that fire when Roethlisberger casually watched the Cleveland Browns recover a fumble in the end zone on the first play of a playoff game?
The Steelers could play this off like the end of Kobe Bryant's career, where his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers was one long coronation. Roethlisberger's teammates might not be excited about it, but it would at least be a little more honest. Unfortunately, Ben isn't Kobe as much as he might delude himself into believing and this will get ugly in a hurry.
The other problem is the Steelers have failed miserably in finding Roethlisberger's replacement. Mason Rudolph has been called the heir apparent to Roethlisberger multiple times, but they have gone to impressive lengths to make sure he's never going to be the starter. The Steelers tried and failed to sign Jameis Winston last season and they brought in Dwayne Haskins as a low cost option to potentially supplant Rudolph this offseason.
It's a humiliating situation for Rudolph, which feels like poetic justice for Browns fans given what occurred between Rudolph and Myles Garrett. Despite igniting and then escalating the situation followed by lying about it in the post game presser which shouldn't have happened, Rudolph went virtually punishment free.
Perhaps when Roethlisberger completely quits on the 2021 season, Rudolph will get his opportunity, massively underwhelm and the team can purge the entire quarterback room, starting from scratch.
The best case scenario for the Steelers is to completely bottom out with Roethlisberger as they get their salary cap situation in order, so they can then draft a quarterback that can key their rebuilding efforts. If that happens, they could bounce back reasonably quickly. If they muddle through and overperform while still not being any meaningful threat to make the postseason, they could extend this period of suffering as they relive the Bubby Brister years.
The rest of the AFC North couldn't be more excited to see another season or few of the NFL's one and only sea cow.