LATROBE – When team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers would not address Ben Roethlisberger’s contract until after the 2014 season a couple of days ago, some viewed that as the door remaining open for the star quarterback to possibly finish his career elsewhere.
After all, Roethlisberger will be 33 next March and would be heading into the final year of his current contract, which pays him $12.1 million this season.
But general manager Kevin Colbert was adamant in his feeling Monday at Saint Vincent College that the team will get a new deal worked out with Roethlisberger when the time comes.
“I don’t see any circumstance where Ben won’t finish his career here,” Colbert said.
Colbert said the Steelers are currently a little less than $6 million under the NFL salary cap of $133.2 million. But that money will be used to work out a deal or two with other players who are heading into the final year of their contracts.
Currently, the Steelers have a number of players, including cornerback Cortez Allen, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, linebacker Jason Worilds and placekicker Shaun Suisham, who are scheduled to become free agents at the conclusion of the season.
The Steelers would like to sign at least one of those players, and possibly all of them, to extensions before the regular season begins Sept. 7 against Cleveland.
“We’d like to be able to do as much business as we can within our constraints, time-wise and cap-wise,” Colbert said.
“We still have a good four weeks to try to get something done, and that’s where we are right now.”
The Steelers, like all other teams, got a boost when the NFL salary cap came in higher than expected for the 2014 season.
Next year’s cap is expected to increase to around $140 million, though Colbert said the Steelers always keep their expectations on the conservative side so they are not surprised if the cap comes in lower.
That money could be needed if Roethlisberger has another big season. Roethlisberger threw for 4,261 yards with 28 touchdowns in 2013.
“That would be wonderful if he has his best career year ever and we win the Super Bowl,” Colbert said. “There won’t be any complaining for sure.”
Meanwhile, Colbert also said the team has not closed the door on re-signing former players Brett Keisel or even James Harrison.
“We haven’t eliminated anybody from consideration because we don’t know what’s going to happen before the season,” Colbert said. “Even into the season there’ve been times when we’ve brought back veteran players due to injury. If we have eliminated a player, we always tell them ‘Don’t keep us in your thought process. If you have an opportunity, don’t wait for us.’”
Keisel has started at defensive end for the Steelers since 2006, but became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The 35-year-old remains unsigned.
Harrison, meanwhile, played for Cincinnati in 2013 after declining to take a pay cut to stay with the Steelers. He was released following the season and the 36-year-old outside linebacker, who was the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, remains unsigned as well.
The Steelers brought in defensive ends Cam Thomas as a free agent and selected Stephon Tuitt in the second round of the draft, but could use Keisel in a rotation with those players opposite emerging star Cameron Heyward.
At outside linebacker, the team has free agent signee Arthur Moats and Chris Carter as its top two backups behind starters Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds.
On the field Monday, the Steelers had their first day in pads and rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier stood out, as expected.
Shazier twice blew past veteran running back LeGarrette Blount during a ‘backs on ‘backers pass rushing drill and had some big hits in the team portion of practice.
“He did some nice things,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers were forced to move to the turf field at Saint Vincent College Monday due to rain. … Running back Le’Veon Bell was held out of practice Monday after leaving early Sunday with soreness in his hamstring. Former Cal U. receiver C.J. Goodwin (shoulder) also sat out after leaving early Sunday. … Rookie receiver Martavis Bryant (groin) returned to practice Monday after sitting out Sunday. … Rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt left early Monday with a groin injury. … The Steelers are off today.