Future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl titles. He will get a chance to win a third in the 2021 NFL season as Steelers president Art Rooney announced Wednesday that Big Ben will return for one last hurrah. William Hill Sportsbook lists Pittsburgh at +2800 to win Super Bowl 56. Those are the third-longest odds among teams that reached the playoffs this past campaign (Chicago and Washington have longer odds).
"Ben and I met (Tuesday) morning and we had a productive meeting," Rooney said in a statement Wednesday. "We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go. Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship. We both understand the next step is to work out Ben's contract situation."
The Steelers and Roethlisberger's camp will restructure the $41.2 million cap hit (largest in the NFL currently) on the final year of Big Ben's contract. The QB is owed a $15 million roster bonus on March 19, so something will be done by then. Roethlisberger will be 39 on March 2, so the 2021 season surely will be his last even if the team does extend his deal simply for cap reasons.
Roethlisberger got off to a fine start in 2020 in leading the Steelers to an 11-0 record, but the wheels fell off for the QB and the team after that as Pittsburgh finished 12-4 and was stunned at home by Cleveland in the wild card round. While Big Ben threw for 501 yards and four touchdowns in the 48-37 defeat, he also was picked off four times. He became the first QB ever with at least four TD passes and four picks in a playoff game. Roethlisberger fell to 0-17 in career when trailing by 21 points or more in a game including playoffs.
From a betting perspective, Roethlisberger is 156-74-1 as a regular-season starter in his career and 120-111-2 against the spread. In the playoffs, he is 13-9 straight up and 11-10-1 ATS.
That Big Ben is back likely won't affect whether the Steelers decide to select a quarterback with the No. 13 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 draft – a few CBS Sports mock drafts have Pittsburgh taking a signal-caller there. The team also signed former Washington QB and 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins last month, and Mason Rudolph is still on the roster. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was high on Haskins at Ohio State when Haskins (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) drew comparisons to Roethlisberger.
Meanwhile, free-agent receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who led the team with 97 catches in 2020, said he wants to re-sign with the Steelers: "At the end of the day, I want to have my legacy in Pittsburgh and retire there," Smith-Schuster told TMZ. "I don't want to leave. I'm Pittsburgh for life."
However, the Steelers are way over the salary cap, so JuJu would have to take a team-friendly deal and it's frankly hard to see him returning as Pittsburgh has talented younger, cheaper options in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as their top options. The Raiders and Jets are expected to chase Smith-Schuster the most.
Long-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey has retired, and running back James Conner, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, and cornerbacks Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton all are free agents as well. The Steelers are not likely to use the franchise tag on any of their free agents after using it on Dupree in 2020. "I would say it's doubtful that we will be able to use a tag," said Colbert.
Pittsburgh is a +300 third favorite at William Hill to repeat as AFC North champion in 2021. The SportsLine Projection Model forecasts the team with 9.3 victories, but that's with the 16-game schedule. The NFL is expected to soon announce the 17th game for each team. It is expected the Steelers will face the Packers, but the location is TBA.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will JuJu Smith-Schuster play for the Steelers next season?
- No -250
- Yes +190
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