Cap Class: If Ben Roethlisberger Can’t Play in 2020, the Steelers are Screwed


By G.Stryker

Cap Class is a series where I break down the cap to find the amounts associated with the roster, dead money, or future cost of players. Dollar amounts and cap costs may not be exciting, but they can be interesting when you look inside the numbers. I will place explanations inside of {braces}, so if you know how those numbers are found, you can skip over them. So grab your pencils and calculators, and let’s do some math!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are struggling for cap space this season and quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger carries the highest cap charge on the team at $33.5M. Don’t look for any cap relief from Ben’s contract. He just signed a 2-year extension last season. Ben is rehabbing from a surgical procedure on his elbow that repaired three of his ligaments. This is a difficult injury for anyone to come back from, let alone a 38 year old man, so there are some questions on whether or not he can return to franchise form this upcoming season.  

Last year, the Steelers had some cap room left by Antonio Brown’s departure. The Steelers used that money in free agency to shore up the defense by signing Mark Barron, Steven Nelson, Anthony Chickillo, Jordan Dangerfield, and Tyson Alualu. On offense, they resigned Ramon Foster and acquired Donte Moncrief, who turned out to be the opposite of the sure-handed Antonio Brown. Then, all of the rest of the cap money was used to resign Ben to a lucrative 2-year extension of $68M with $37.5M in bonuses.

Now, all that 2020 money is used up and this year’s cap is tighter than Casey Hampton’s pants after Thanksgiving dinner. The Steelers can make cuts in some areas, but one spot they can not cut is Big Ben. His big cap number is likely locked to the Steelers this season. If cut before his roster bonus on the 3rd day of the new NFL season, he would still count $25M against the cap, freeing up $8.5M, which is his salary for this season. The problem is, with his injury, the Steelers won’t know if he can play until May, which means his $12.5M roster bonus will kick in, and it would then cost more to cut him than to keep him. With the $12.5M bonus kicking in added to the $25M of 2 years left on his prorated signing bonus, it would cost $37.5M to cut Big Ben. So in final terms, it would cost an additional $4M in cap space just to move him. Not ideal, and not going to happen.

So Ben better have his arm back in shape when training camp rolls around. If he is unable to compete again next year, his contract will be an albatross that prevents this team from being competitive on offense for another year. And with his cap hit, there is nowhere to look for help if Ben can’t play in 2020.


Salary cap information from:


Do you think Big Ben will return to form this season? Leave your comments below!


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One Comment

  1. Dean

    January 30, 2020 at 7:25 am

    No, I think he’s done, I truly think that if he’s not back at full strength, we should give Mason Rudolph another chance with the help from the new Quarterback coach. Remember it took Peyton Manning 4 years to get good. Steelers fans are to inpatient.

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