Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers' most important player. His contract runs through 2015, but the team won't be giving him a much-deserved extension in the coming weeks. Instead, that payday will have to wait until the offseason. We know this because Steelers president Art Rooney II said as much.
"I met with Ben shortly before we did the Maurkice Pouncey signing [in the middle of June] just to make sure Ben understood where we were with our intentions as far as a contract extension for him," Rooney told the team's website Friday. "I just didn't want him to feel like we were moving ahead with other players without any communication.
"And so I talked to Ben, and then we talked with his agent Ryan Tollner about where we are and the fact we intend on addressing Ben's contract situation after the season, so that we could address a number of players who were going into their last year in 2014. I think Ben understands that's our intention and the way we'd like to proceed. I think we had a good conversation."
In the past, franchise quarterbacks typically received contract extensions with two years remaining on their deals. But with so many other players entering the final year of their contracts, Roethlisberger will have to wait.
"The other key thing is that Ben wants to be part of a winning team, to be in a position to compete for championships, and he understands that in order to do that we need to try to keep as many of the other players around as we can," Rooney continued. "So, addressing the players who are going into the final years of their contracts in 2014 makes sense. That's what he and I talked about.
"We also talked to Ryan [Tollner], just so that there was communication with him as well, so that they understood the direction in which we wanted to proceed. We wanted to make sure they were understanding that we do want to make a commitment, that we do want to address Ben's contract next year. It's not a situation where we're saying we want to put it on hold. We did assure him that next year is the time frame in which we want to address it."
Roethlisberger was asked Saturday about Rooney's remarks.
"As I put my faith and trust in them, when the time is right, we'll get it done," Big Ben told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette. "Now, I can just concentrate on football."
And based on initial impressions, Roethlisberger's best football could be in front of him.
“My arm is stronger than it's been in my career," he said. "Even in [spring] practices and minicamp, the receivers said, 'Ben, that ball is getting to us a lot quicker, with a lot more spin on it, it feels real good.' That should translate into better play.”
Roethlisberger also showed up to training camp in better shape than previous years.
"I felt like the time is right. That youth wears off. You start getting to 32, it's time. As your body deteriorates, your natural talents start to go a little bit. You have to bring in physical working out, building, taking protein and doing extra stuff.
"I want this year to be my best year and, if I have to do extra things, I'm going to do it."
If that happens, a year from now Roethlisberger will be one of the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks.