Steelers face uphill battle in 2021 even with Ben Roethlisberger

The Steelers are going to have a tough time competing in 2021 even if Ben Roethlisberger returns as the starting quarterback on a new deal.

The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a shocking end to their season earlier this month. They fell at home to the Cleveland Browns and fans wondered if Ben Roethlisberger’s career had ended in such embarrassing fashion.

The discussion came up because of Roethlisberger’s massive cap hit in 2021. It is just over $41 million and the only way he could realistically return is with a restructured deal. That appears to be happening, but the Steelers are still facing an uphill battle to compete next season.

Steelers will struggle to compete even with Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger’s contract has to be restructured in the form of an extension that will push his money out over future years. He may say he doesn’t care about his pay this year, but he is going to want the money at some point.

But let’s assume he gets that figured out. The Steelers are still facing salary cap troubles and both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are free agents. Keeping both may just not be possible.

Then there is the fact the AFC North’s three other teams are all led by elite young quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson has proven himself in Baltimore, Baker Mayfield did the impossible and led the Browns to a playoff victory, and Joe Burrow looked great with the Cincinnati Bengals before his injury.

The Steelers won the division with a record of 12-4, while both the Browns and Ravens finished at 11-5. The difference is the fact the Steelers fell apart after an 11-0 start.

Cut to the playoff defeat. The Browns have always been an automatic win for Roethlisberger. This time he threw four interceptions and quite literally gave the game away. There was even a point when Steelers Twitter was clamoring for Mason Rudolph to come in and try to save the season.

The Steelers are doing right by Roethlisberger based on his entire body of work in Pittsburgh. And he is returning the favor by willing to move some money around in order to run it back in 2021. Bringing him back may just be a bad move from a competitive standpoint. However, the team did not have much of a choice if he decided not to retire.