Ben Roethlisberger odds on returning to Steelers in 2021 NFL season: Big Ben likely back, but JuJu Smith-Schuster probably gone

The Steelers face a host of offseason questions, led by what to do with future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
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Normally when a quarterback throws for 501 yards in a playoff game, his future with a team isn't in question. But that is the case for Steelers quarterback and first-ballot Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, Big Ben had 501 yards passing and four scores Sunday night but a lot of those were empty statistics and he was picked off four times (career playoff high) in a shocking 48-37 home loss to the Cleveland Browns that ended Pittsburgh's season. Will Roethlisberger be with the Steelers next season? SportsLine offers updated odds.

When asked after the game whether he wanted to play next season, Roethlisberger said: "It's going to start between me and God. Lot of praying. And a lot of talking with my family. I still have a year left on my contract. I hope the Steelers want me back if that's the way we go. There'll be a lot of discussions, but now's not the time for that."

Big Ben has a whopping cap number of $41.25 million (highest in NFL) that becomes official on March 17. That simply isn't doable for the Steelers with the cap expected to drop next season due to the COVID pandemic fallout. This year's cap was $198.2 million per team. Next year's cap could be as low as $175 million, in which Roethlisberger would eat up 23.6 percent of Pittsburgh's number.

If Roethlisberger wants to return, the team would have to restructure that deal. It's possible that Pittsburgh decides to release him, which would reduce Roethlisberger's cap charge by $19 million, although it seems unlikely the Steelers would kick a legend to the curb.

Roethlisberger could simply choose to retire at age 38 (39 in March). A couple of weeks ago, he said: "If I'm not playing good enough football, I need to hang it up." The two-time Super Bowl winner had a pretty good season overall, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 picks. His rating of 94.1 was 20th in the NFL.

Pittsburgh doesn't have its long-term successor on the roster – sorry, Mason Rudolph. The team will pick 24th in the first round of this year's draft, which means all the top QB prospects will be off the board. The Steelers don't have enough to trade for someone like Houston's Deshaun Watson but could land perhaps the Jets' Sam Darnold, Eagles' Carson Wentz or Washington's Dwayne Haskins.

The most likely scenario is that Roethlisberger returns for one last season but that the Steelers do find their future QB this offseason either via trade or the draft. Someone like Alabama QB Mac Jones, who finished third in the Heisman voting, could be there at No. 24 overall, and he could sit and learn for a year behind Roethlisberger. The CBS Sports Big Board ranks Jones as the No. 25 overall prospect in the 2021 draft. Every other AFC North team has a young franchise QB in place: Baltimore with Lamar Jackson, Cleveland with Baker Mayfield and Cincinnati with Joe Burrow. 

One key Steeler almost surely not back: Wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster. He is set for unrestricted free agency and the team seemed to grow tired of his TikTok act. Smith-Schuster is a good player who had 97 catches for 831 yards and nine scores this season and 13 catches for 157 yards and a TD on Sunday night, but Pittsburgh has capable replacements in younger and cheaper Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson.

Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will Ben Roethlisberger be the Steelers' starting QB Week 1 of the 2021 season?

  • Yes -180
  • No +140

Who wins every NFL game this week? And which teams cover more than 50 percent of the time? Get picks here from the SportsLine Projection Model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times and ranked in the Top 10 on NFLPickWatch three of the past four years on straight-up NFL picks.

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