Column: Ben smiles through another snub 58

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DEJAN KOVACEVIC, DK ON PITTSBURGH SPORTS

LATROBE, Pa. Ben Roethlisberger looks and sounds fantastic, but don’t take my word for it.

“This is the most excited I’ve been about any offense I’ve had,” Todd Haley was telling me as he walked down the winding path to Chuck Noll Field for the Steelers’ first formal practice Saturday at Saint Vincent College. “Seriously, I mean any offense.”

Wow. And what, apart from the standard summer optimism, would prompt that sentiment?

“Have you seen Ben?”

Similarly, and also before that practice, Markus Wheaton came back with this when I asked what might make the offense special this fall: “Oh, Ben will do that. Just wait.”

All right, then. So the first phase of that wait ended at 2:55 p.m. when Mike Tomlin led 89 men onto the field, to the delight of the 4,000 or so diehards delightedly sweating through a searing sun. And Roethlisberger did, indeed, deliver. He ducked and dodged effortlessly, fired bullet after bullet, showed chemistry with everyone from Antonio Brown to Justin Brown and all Lance Moores in between. It was still football in shorts — the pads are donned for the tackle variety Monday — but it was as impressive a display as one could conceive in the setting.

“He’s ready,” Tomlin would say afterward. “He’s ready to go.”

Sure is. In every way.

Let’s not sweep this under the rug, Pittsburgh: If Roethlisberger had wanted, he could have made one seriously enormous stink over Art Rooney II’s public declaration Friday that the Steelers will not try to extend the contract of their franchise quarterback. It might only have taken a certain expression on his face. Or an intonation of his voice. He could have sent out a signal that he wished he’d been treated as are most star QBs in the NFL, and he’d have had the whole city — no, the whole Nation — in an uproar. We wouldn’t just be talking about a camp distraction. We’d be talking about ripping out the foundation of the franchise.

Roethlisberger could have put himself first. And with no small justification, given his credentials.

Instead, here’s how he handled my question on the matter coming off the field Saturday …

Are you buying that Roethlisberger will just flick this aside?

I’ll be candid: I’m not.

On June 12, when I asked his thoughts on an extension the same day Maurkice Pouncey got his six years and $48 million, this was the answer: “I can only control what I control. I’m here to play football. If there’s something important that happens, then I’ll let my agents tell me. But other than that, I just have to play the game.” Unless I’m mistaken, there wasn’t anything in there about “faith” that the front office will do the right thing in 2015 or about “putting people on the field through free agency” or about being “the best team we can possibly be.” That guy on that day was hoping for an extension that would allow him to fulfill what I believe is a genuine, heartfelt wish to spend his full career in Pittsburgh.

There is no doubt in my mind Roethlisberger wanted that extension now, rather than when entering the lame-duck season of his current contract.

Hence, there’s no doubt in my mind that Roethlisberger is disappointed. Perhaps deeply so.

I’ll go further: Some of what was in Rooney’s statement was sheer malarkey. (And no, not Mike Mularkey, wiseguy.)

Rooney wrote that he met with Roethlisberger right before the Pouncey signing to explain that a Roethlisberger extension would be put off “so that we could address a number of players who were going into their last year in 2014.”

Not many among us are capologists, but it doesn’t require being Omar Khan to see that, even though Roethlisberger is making $12.1 million this season — sixth-most among all NFL QBs — he counts $18.9 million against the cap. Even if Roethlisberger had signed for terms approximating those of the Ravens’ Joe Flacco (six years, $120.6 million) or the ridiculous amount the Bears are paying Jay Cutler (seven years, $126.7 million), there’s precious little chance he’d have counted a penny more against the cap in 2014.

Now, the Steelers almost surely will have more space in 2015 because of a growing cap, as Rooney indicated in the statement. But here, too, extra cap space in 2015 has nil impact on 2014.

If you ask me, this was yet another power move by the front office. And it’s another in a series, not least of which was firing Bruce Arians a couple years ago, then instructing Roethlisberger he had to change his game, then basically ignoring his pleas to add big-time receiving help.

And in the more general sense, this was Rooney declaring that he won’t be backed against a wall to extend any player, even Roethlisberger, until that player has only one year left on a contract.

Say what you will about the merits of that mindset, but let’s at least call it what it is.

At any rate, here’s Roethlisberger again saying all the right things, doing all the right things. Just as he has in advancing his relationship with Haley to the point the two call each other “friend.” This offseason, he’s dropped some weight — he declined to tell me how much — to ensure he still has his trademark mobility at age 32, he’s emerged as a leader in every sense, and he sounds eminently determined to carry the Steelers, if need be, past the 8-8 stigma.

Right now, that matters more than anything.

“I’m looking to move. I think we all are,” Roethlisberger said when I broached 8-8. “This is a new season, a new group, a young group, a fun group, and I’m so excited to be part of it. I’m looking forward to it.”

Good for him. Better for the Steelers.

58 thoughts on “Column: Ben smiles through another snub”

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  1. Matt says:

    I hope Ben demands top dollar next year. Rooneys don’t deserve a hometown discount.

  2. HoustonJr says:
    -23

    By far the most idiotic column I’ve read in a while. Ben practically IS the front office at this point in his career and is involved in all of this. They will sign him to an extension next offseason, regardless of injury. He’s glad to see the team re-sign teammates = better team.

    1. Crash says:

      Ben is the front office? ON what planet? Mars?

      I said the MINUTE Art II blamed Ben for Tebow 316 and then “refired” Arians that he wouldn’t retire a Steeler.

      Art II does not want to pay him $60 mil in guarantees.

      Fine, admit that.

      Then trade him.

      1. BillyBaduka says:

        Yeah because the Steelers never pay big money to aging vets.

        Anyone that claims the Steelers are cheap in contract negotiations hasn’t been paying attention to salaries/the cap for the past 10 years.

  3. Anna says:
    -2

    Ben has the fans firmly behind him. He is the best leader the Steelers have ever had, and he deserves elite quarterback money. In the last few years, since Art took over for his dad, management’s shallow pockets have disappointed the fan base even more than the 8-8 records.

    1. BillyBaduka says:

      Shallow pockets? The Steelers spend to the cap consistently.

    2. -2

      I’m not sure I’d call him a leader based on some off the field stuff (I mean, why be in an under 21 club at 28 yrs old) but clearly one of the very best QBs in the game and has been for some time.

      1. Anna says:

        I guess I could have specified on-the-field leader, but I choose to give him credit for the apparent way that he has changed his life in the past several years. And, I agree, one of the best QBs in the game.

  4. Crash says:

    Art II’s salary cap for 2014 is the excuse. If they gave Ben a four-year extension with a $40 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary for 2014? His 2014 cap number would be LOWER than it is now.

  5. Biz says:

    I hope you are wrong Dejan, but most times you are right

  6. Biz says:

    Monday I tell the Trib no thanks

    They take the weekends off ;-)

  7. Saxon Daugherty says:

    This is a little random but is Ben wearing an old Brett Keisel jersey in the top photo on the left?

    1. Dejan Kovacevic says:

      He is. Nice tribute, huh? Eventually, Ben had to take it off. Called it too tight.

  8. IronWicki says:

    Art II is walking a fine line with Ben. I for one don’t appreciate the antics of the front office towards Ben. First class organizations should take care of their all pro, 2 time Super Bowl winning, future HOF QB without a second thought. I hope this is just a negotiating ploy.

  9. yinzerfromuniontown says:

    am I supposed to be able to read this without paying?

    1. Dejan Kovacevic says:

      It’s a metered paywall. There are a highly limited number of free views each month to continue to invite newcomers to try it out. After that, the door closes. Gently, of course.

  10. Crash says:
    -5

    Maybe Ben should have held out, then implied that he had to sell dope for a living to make ends meet, then he would get paid. Worked for Hines.

  11. Ghost says:

    With Biz. Want to believe Rooney has a plan to take care of Ben in due course. But DK points out how new contract should actually free up MORE immediate cap relief. Can’t help but wonder what Rooney is up to. Tall order, but Art’s stewardship has yet to equal dad’s or granddad’s.

  12. JAL says:

    JAL’s Summer Breeze Morning Links

    1. JAL says:

      1 New Jersey Com

      For sports fans, Pittsburgh covers all the bases

      http://www.northjersey.com/travel/a-slice-of-sports-heaven-in-pittsburgh-1.1057884

    2. Try the Type O Negative version of that tune.

  13. JAL says:

    2 CBS Sports

    Pirates-Rockies Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20140727_PIT@COL/pirates-rockies-preview

    1. JAL says:

      3—Pirates Prospects

      First Pitch: Taking the John Buck Approach to Adding a Relief Pitcher

      http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/07/first-pitch-taking-the-john-buck-approach-to-adding-a-relief-pitcher.html

  14. OldSoldier21 says:

    I have wondered what was going on with the curious pick of Landry Jones in the 4th round. This does nothing to keep my mind from wandering…….

    1. Landry Jones by most accounts should change his name to Laundry based on his play. Not good. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a legacy plan similar to what the Pats are doing with Mallett.

      Thank you for your service.

  15. A few random thoughts on today’s column. Ben wearing the #99 jersey yesterday can be looked at two ways. A nice tribute to an old friend, or a big middle finger to management.

    1. As far as Ben’s contract goes, DK touched on it briefly but I think it bears repeating. The Steelers are $6.4 million under the salary cap this year. Their days of being cap strapped are over. They could take care of this today if they wanted to.

    2. BillyBaduka says:

      He’s done the ex-Steeler shirt at camp before, mostly with Max Starks.

      I still think this “Ben didn’t get an extension” is much ado about nothing.

      1. I think you’re right about the extension Billy.

        Starks ended up coming back after he wore #78. I hope the same thing happens here.

    3. All that said, I’m hoping there is some kind of understanding between the two parties. I wouldn’t even be surprised if numbers have been discussed. But by waiting, if anything gets fouled up it’s all on the Steelers from this point forward.

      1. BillyBaduka says:

        Both fair points Milo. I agree with both.

  16. brian says:

    Ben has had a great career. Not doubting that in the slightest. Frankly, I’m not sure if I would pay a 33-year-old Ben $100 million. At this point, he would have to outperform my expectations, and take this young team to the playoffs to prove me wrong.

  17. Steelkings says:

    Part 1: Between salary, signing bonus, roster bonus, option bonus and restructure bonus, the Steelers have paid B/R over $100 million to play football for seven years. The Steelers have endured the “Cleveland Stretcher”. They endured the “broken toe.”

  18. Steelkings says:

    Part 2: They endured the “Harley Header.” They endured the “battery-less remote” as well as the “come check out the men’s room” incident. For all that, B/R was paid $100 million. To say he is treated unfairly is LAUGHABLE!

    1. Steelkings says:
      -4

      Part 3: The question is, is B/R still on double-secret probation? In the boardroom, did someone say, “Just think of the things B/R could do in the next 6 years?” Followed by “Oh Crap!”

      1. Steelkings says:
        -3

        Part 4: It pisses me off! Is B/R a gifted QB? Yes, he is. Is he an obsessive “me” guy? You betcha! He’s proven it over and over. You’re absolutely wrong, DK. He’s not bothered a bit. He knows someone will pay him. Maybe he can be LeBron, too.

  19. DK..you mentioned this is another power move from the FO. I got that feeling with the Wallace holdout too. I thought the money given to Brown was given to him more out of spite for Wallace. Thoughts?

    1. ManDarino says:

      Riiiight. Because the principal goal of the FO is to spite players. And here we thought it was to win all these years. A shame, too, after the All-Pro season Wallace had in Miami last year.

    2. Dejan Kovacevic says:

      I’m more inclined on that one to just give credit to Tomlin. He loved AB from Day 1. Great judgment call by the coach.

      1. ManDarino says:

        Hey DK, since you’re lurking . . . I think I speak for everyone here when I say you are free to call any of us a chump if you disagree. I promise I won’t cancel my subscription. I can’t . . . I prepaid for a year :)

  20. ManDarino says:

    I understand Dejan is trying to get attention to the new website … and I love his work. But he’s trying too hard here. Guarantee there is an agreement between the Steelers and Ben for next year and both parties trust each other. It will get done, and Ben’s head is in a good place.

    1. genat says:

      Disagree. If you’ve ever read any of Dejan’s columns b4 you know he is opinionated and writes what he thinks/feels. No different just because he has a new website. His job is always to give another take/other view/opinion of events.

      1. ManDarino says:

        I read everything the man writes . . . even his soccer tweets. He’s the best in Pittsburgh. Bouchette is a distant second. That’s why we are all here.

        I’m just not buying this story. Does anyone see Ben wearing another uniform in his career?

        Yeah, me neither.

  21. hockeymonster says:

    I’m sure they talked extension but couldn’t come to agreement. Stillers may not want to owe a 37 year old QB 25M down the road. Honestly i’m not sure i’d want to do more than a 2-3 year extension either. But if that’s the case they’ll need to start grooming someone now.

  22. TG iup says:

    Is it at all possible that Ben is just that confident that he will have a huge year and the price tag will be more next year when they decide to extend. Bold move. Worked for Flacco (and damaged the Ravens). If this team gets back to a SB this year – what is Ben worth?

    1. chambersaurusRx says:

      That’s one of the reasons why I think this is going to bite the front office in the butt. He’s the reason we avoided a losing season last year. We get to the playoffs this year, they’ll owe him way more than they would if they paid up this year.

    2. chambersaurusRx says:

      That said, I hope it works out for him. Past issues aside, he’s one of the best QBs in the game, and is DEFINITELY the winner of his draft class.

  23. T-Bear says:

    totally disagree. which it would be w/ dk is not often . . .

  24. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    Deepest condolences to the Steelers’ Ramon Foster, a good, good man, on the loss of his mom. She was only 49. Thoughts and prayers.

    1. Putter says:

      Rest in Peace

  25. Andrew says:

    I wonder if there is an understanding that Ben is going to be taken care of and the public hard-ball stance is a message for others in the future. Ben’s restructured his contract like 4 times!

    1. Dejan Kovacevic says:

      There are all kinds of rules against making specific agreements under the table, of course. But an understanding could be in place, sure.

      1. Andrew says:

        Thanks for the insight, Dejan. Clearly, the above is very much a piece of wishful thinking, but it’s not like Ben’s performances have been declining and its not like we have an obvious Favre-Rodgers situation at hand!

  26. King of Rock says:

    I think it is obvious that they are leaving flexibility to sign a remaining FA / training camp castoff or room for uneven contracts in trade during preseason or early reg season

  27. genat says:

    The only thing that bothers me about not signing him now is that he could decide to go elsewhere if he chooses or gets ticked off. He’s your franchise QB you owe it to him to sign/lock him up. I’m not a fan of Art II he does not run the business like Dan did sadly.

    1. King of Rock says:

      genat: he cannot go anywhere until after 2015

      1. genat says:

        I know that just if this does bother him enough he could look elsewhere at that time or at least entertain them? Ben has always been kind of a loose canon at times. You just never know.

  28. A Long says:

    If not Ben, then who? It’s not like there’s a #1 drafted QB behind him…

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