Steelers break bank for Big Ben

A day after turning 26, Steelers quarterback signs eight-year, $102 million contract, keeping him with club through 2015



There's little of Ben Roethlisberger that underwhelms. He's Big Ben, after all, not Average Ben.

He became the first quarterback to go 13-0 in a season, the youngest to win a Super Bowl, the first on the Steelers to hit a 100 passer rating and the one who survived a spectacular motorcycle crash.

His favorite offense, naturally, is the hurry-up. Yesterday, one day after his 26th birthday, he obliterated all of the Steelers' records for player pay when he signed an eight-year, $102 million contract. It includes so-called guaranteed money of $33.2 million and has a $25.2 million signing bonus.

Roethlisberger had the Steelers in the same spot he had the Baltimore Ravens last season -- right where he wanted them. They had little choice but to give him what he wanted, and they did just that. There are many different ways to measure compensation anymore in the NFL, but by most of them Roethlisberger ranks No. 3 in the league.

His average of $12.75 million per year ranks behind only Peyton Manning at $14 million and Carson Palmer at $13.2 million. And his guaranteed money ranks behind Michael Vick, who really does not count anymore, and Manning.

Roethlisberger's signing bonus, payable over the next two seasons, is almost 2 1/2 times more than the largest paid by the Steelers -- Troy Polamalu's $10,975,000 last summer.

"This is a great birthday present to know that I am going to be a Pittsburgh Steeler for a long time," said Roethlisberger, who made his first Pro Bowl this year.

Roethlisberger's salary cap number will reach almost $8 million this year, a little higher than it would have been had he not signed his new deal. The contract is not an extension but a new 8-year deal that will pay him $2.5 million in salary this year and $4.75 million in 2009, plus a roster bonus next year of $3 million.

His salary leaps to $8.05 million in 2010. He will earn $11.6 million annually through the 2014 season. He will earn $12.1 million in the eighth and final year of the new contract, 2015, unless -- like his rookie contract -- this one is reopened when it has two years remaining.

"You're talking about a really serious commitment on the team's behalf," said agent Ryan Tollner, who, along with his brother Bruce, worked on the deal with the Steelers' negotiator Omar Khan and club president Art Rooney II.

Of course, all of that does not count the additional incentive bonuses he can earn, one reason his salary cap number would have risen this year under the previous deal.

The contract also contains a standard clause that forbids Roethlisberger from participating in "hazardous activities." While the clause does not list each activity, among the examples it cites are riding motorcycles, with or without a helmet.

His $33.2 million in guarantees -- his signing bonus, plus $4 million payments in 2009 and '10 -- protects him in case of a football injury, which would not include a motorcycle accident.

"He is a Steeler, and he will always be a Steeler," owner Dan Rooney said. "We are very pleased with that and what the future will be for us."

Roethlisberger's contract will limit what the Steelers can spend in free agency in the future, but that's the price a team pays for having one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The cap, too, will grow, as it did this year for each team from $109 million to $116 million.

Roethlisberger did alter one of his earlier requests, when he said he would like to see the Steelers keep Alan Faneca (he signed with the Jets) and land a tall wide receiver.

"I believe that we have all the pieces to the puzzle that we can be a championship football team," he said.

Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations, said Roethlisberger's salary cap number this year did not rise much because of the new contract. "As you move forward, obviously it will have different ramifications."

"Quarterbacks get compensated a lot, so you knew that going into the season that this was going to be the time that we were going to talk to him," Colbert said. "Then he had a special season, and he earned the big contract. The organization recognized that and was willing to compensate him for that.

"We always have to keep in mind the big picture, but a big part of that big picture is the quarterback."



$100 million men

Ben Roethilsberger is the seventh player in NFL history to earn a $100 million contract.

Player

Year

Team

Contract

Ben Roethlisberger

2008

Steelers

8 years, $102 M

Carson Palmer

2005

Cincinnati

9 years, $118.75 M

Michael Vick

2004

Atlanta

10 years, $130 M

Daunte Culpepper

2003

Minnesota

10 years, $102 M

Donovan McNabb

2002

Philadelphia

12 years, $115 M

Drew Bledsoe

2001

New England

10 years, $103 M

Brett Favre

2001

Green Bay

10 years, $101 M

Source: ESPN.com


Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com . First Published March 4, 2008 5:00 AM


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