GM Colbert says Steelers, Roethlisberger are talking new contract
February 10, 2015 11:33 PM
Steelers Ben Roethlisberger looks to make a pass downfield during the Steelers AFC wild-card game against the Ravens in January.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have begun discussion on a new contract and general manager Kevin Colbert left little doubt what the team thinks about the future of its record-setting quarterback.
"I think Ben is a franchise quarterback that is getting better with age," Colbert said Tuesday. "You have seen it with a couple of great players that are still playing in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Their games have certainly not deteriorated. I really think Ben is going to be a better quarterback down the road than he has been up to this point. I think that is his goal, too."
Roethlisberger has one year remaining on the eight-year, $102 million contract he signed in 2008, and is coming off the best statistical season of his 11-year career. At age 32, he has shown no sign of wearing down.
He tied for the league lead in passing yards (4,952), tied his franchise record with 32 touchdown passes and started 16 games for the second year in a row. Signing him to a new deal is the Steelers' top priority in the offseason.
But Colbert said he thinks Roethlisberger will only get better because of the number of young skill players around him -- running back Le'Veon Bell and receivers Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant.
"I think those guys still have another level they can reach," Colbert said. "I think by them reaching another level, it will make Ben's job a little bit easier. I think that part of Ben will grow as the players around him grow, if he has the right players around him. I think they are heading in that direction right now."
Colbert met Tuesday with several members of the media to discuss the NFL Scouting Combine that begins next week in Indianapolis and the start of free agency, which begins March 10.
While the Steelers have started the process to secure Roethlisberger's future with the team, Colbert said he and coach Mike Tomlin will begin more detailed discussion today -- along with assistant coaches -- to determine which players to re-sign or let go.
That process will include the fate of four veteran players who, like Roethlisberger, have appeared in three Super Bowls -- safety Troy Polamalu, cornerback Ike Taylor, linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel.
Taylor and Harrison are unrestricted free agents and are not expected to be re-signed. Polamalu has two years remaining and is scheduled to count $8.25 million against the cap in 2015. Keisel has one year remaining at a cap cost of $1.75 million.
It is possible all four will not be asked to return next season.
"It will be a more formal approach where we not only start talking about potential free agents, but we also grade our own team as each position coach comes in," Colbert said. "When we come out of those meetings and head into the combine, we will have a good idea of who we can keep, who we want to keep and who we need to replace."
Colbert said the Steelers have not ruled out using the transition tag again on outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who is an unrestricted free agent. Worilds was paid $9,754,000 in 2014 -- the average of the top 10 outside linebackers in the NFL -- and tied for the team lead with 7½ sacks. If they use the transition tag on him this year, the cost will likely be closer to $11 million. That money is guaranteed and would count against the salary cap in 2015.
"Jason had a good year for us last year," Colbert said. "He is still a young player. He is probably still an ascending player. I don't think you've seen the best of him, either, as a Steeler or as a potential player for someone else's team. He is definitely someone that we will consider keeping. We will see where the market goes."
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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