With the Steelers’ season-ending skid and playoff debacle against the Cleveland Browns fresh in his mind, Roethlisberger made it known he was ready to attempt another Super Bowl run. After discussions, the Steelers determined they wanted that too, but not at Roethlisberger’s $41.25 million cap hit.
The two sides negotiated and came to a deal in March: Roethlisberger reduced his pay by $5 million for a $14 million salary in 2021 and added four voidable years to his deal, freeing up $15 million in cap space for the 2021 season.
And speaking in August, team CEO and President Art Rooney II didn’t rule out a scenario where Roethlisberger played beyond the 2021 season.
“It’s not written in stone that this is his last year,” Rooney told a small group of reporters at Steelers camp. “We’re aware this could be Ben’s last year. We hope it’s a great one. That’s as far as we can go with it right now. Obviously, if this is his last year, then next year we’ll be making decisions on a quarterback, and we’ll address it as the time comes up.”
But with six games left in the regular season, the 39-year-old quarterback is telling former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Steelers are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games including playoffs since starting 11-0 in 2020.
That leaves the Steelers without a clear path forward at quarterback — something they delayed while the organization attempted to build a supporting cast for Roethlisberger’s final run.
Who might the Steelers turn to under center? There isn’t an obvious choice, but there are plenty of options.
On the Steelers roster
Rudolph is the only quarterback currently on the roster with a contract through 2022. The Steelers believed he had first-round talent when they drafted him in 2018, but that hasn’t come to fruition in the four years since. Rudolph split the starting job with former UDFA Devlin “Duck” Hodges in 2019 after Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending elbow injury. The Steelers brought in Matt Canada in 2020, initially as a quarterbacks coach to further help develop Rudolph. When Canada was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2021, the Steelers hired veteran quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan to lead the position.
Rudolph started one game for the Steelers this season, filling in against the Detroit Lions after Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19. Afterward, Mike Tomlin said Rudolph “gave us a chance to win,” but he was inconsistent and often threw off-target and high. Rudolph is expected to remain with the organization in 2022 and have an opportunity to compete for the job. The Steelers also have former first-round pick Haskins on the current roster, though he couldn’t beat out Rudolph for the No. 2 spot through the preseason and training camp. He’s been inactive for all but one game this season. Sullivan praised Haskins for his development and attention to detail during practices, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to show growth in a game situation. During the preseason, Haskins had bright moments, but in his lone start, the preseason finale against the Panthers, he completed 9 of 16 attempts for 108 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Steelers are currently projected to have the No. 13 overall pick, and according to ESPN’s FPI, they have a 28.6% chance to have a top-10 pick. This year’s quarterback class is underwhelming. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones stands out from the current rookie class, but while the rest of the group has experienced growing pains, it’s still much stronger than the next group up. If the Steelers added a first-round quarterback to the room, they would be setting up for a longer-term rebuild — something coach Mike Tomlin might not want to do after more than a decade of working with Roethlisberger. But, the Steelers take pride in homegrown talent, and there’s at least one option that checks all the boxes.
The Steelers let Pittsburgh native and Pitt quarterback Dan Marino get away in the 1983 draft, and it kept them from having a solid succession plan after Terry Bradshaw. Now, they could make a move to keep Pickett in town. A Heisman contender and ACC Player of the Year, Pickett helped lead the Panthers to the ACC Championship game in his fifth season, and he threw for over 4,000 yards, 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions. And, his 79 career touchdowns passes tie him for first in school history Marino. Pickett is emerging as the Steelers’ best option in this class, but it’s not a sure thing they can move up high enough to get him.
Howell, with a career 10,078 passing yards and 91 touchdown passes to go with 1,006 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, is a better version of Baker Mayfield, and Willis has a strong arm along with his mobility. Corral also may go too high for the Steelers to make a play, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the class with a 68 completion percentage for 3,339 yards and 20 touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 597 yards and 11 TDs.
The Steelers prefer to draft and develop, but it’s not out of the question to think they could make a push for a veteran quarterback. The Steelers already have some key pieces entering the 2022 season that keep the team from undergoing a complete rebuild: T.J. Watt, Najee Harris, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson, Cameron Heyward and Pat Freiermuth. The offensive line needs help in the offseason, and the Steelers will have to discuss big-ticket extensions for Fitzpatrick and Johnson, but the team could avoid a large-scale rebuild if they land a veteran quarterback. And, they have the money to do it. Roethlisberger’s voided contract carries a $10.3 million cap hit in 2022, but they’re projected to have about $45 million in 2022 cap space, according to OverTheCap and Spotrac. That number could rise even more with the new TV deals expected to push the salary cap even higher. The Steelers could put together a blockbuster trade to acquire a big name or settle for a middle-of-the-road free agent option and use their 2022 draft capital and cap space to bolster the offensive and defensive lines and secondary.
Amounts listed are the cap hits the Steelers would incur if they acquired the player in either a pre-June 1 trade or a post-June 1 trade. Figures are courtesy of OverTheCap.com:
Aaron Rodgers, Packers, pre-June 1 trade: $19.3 million cap hit; post-June 1 trade: $26.9 million cap hit
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, pre-June 1: $11 million cap hit; post-June 1: $24 million cap hit
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers, pre-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit; post-June 1: $25.6 million cap hit
Derek Carr, Raiders, pre-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit; post-June 1: $19.9 million cap hit
Kirk Cousins, Vikings, pre-June 1: $35 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit
Deshaun Watson, Texans, pre-June 1: $24.2 million cap hit; post-June 1: $35 million cap hit, plus three years left on his contract
Outside of Watson, these options essentially have one year left on their current deals. Given his upside, cost and team’s current trajectory, Wilson, who is under contract through 2023, makes the most sense. He was unhappy prior to the season and Schefter reported Wilson would consider a trade to the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders or Bears. The Seahawks eventually smoothed things over but at 3-8 and a stint on injured reserve, Wilson’s season hasn’t gone according to plan and he could ask for a trade.
Like Wilson, Rodgers was also unhappy with his situation, but the Packers reworked his deal and voided the 2023 year, making 2022 the final year of his contract. However, Rodgers carries a $46.1 million charge against the Packers’ salary cap in 2022, guaranteeing the team would either have to move on from him or sign him to another extension. If another team trades for him, they would almost certainly rework his contract and give him new money and an extension. This season, his team is an NFC Super Bowl favorite, and he’s in the midst of another MVP-caliber season. But, never say never. Rodgers and Tomlin did a little flirting in the weeks around the Steelers Week 4 game against the Packers, with each complimenting the other in news conferences and smiling at each other when Tomlin called a timeout to keep Rodgers from quick-snapping on the Steelers’ defense. Rodgers also talked about his appreciation for Pittsburgh on Pat McAfee Show, further raising eyebrows. Still, Rodgers seems more content than he did a few months ago, making it less likely he winds up in black and gold.
Garappolo, who began his career as a backup in New England, became a lame duck quarterback the minute the San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance No.3 overall in May. He’s not as flashy as Rodgers or Wilson, but he’ll likely have a lower asking price than the top-tier options. Since helping the 49ers to Super Bowl in 2019 with 27 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, Garoppolo has been average at best. In an injury-shortened 2020 season, he had seven touchdowns to five interceptions, and this season, he has 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. Lance is the obvious future in San Francisco, making Garoppolo a prime trade target.
Two other tradeable veteran quarterbacks to keep an eye on are Carr and Cousins, who both have one year left on their deals. Both the Raiders and the Vikings appear at a crossroads with their respective quarterbacks and coaching staffs. The Raiders (6-5) already fired Jon Guden, while Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman are approaching the hot seat with the Vikings sitting at 5-6. If ownership decides to start fresh in either situation, the Steelers could make a play for Cousins or Carr, although Cousins is the most expensive of the bunch.
And, there’s Watson. He hasn’t played a game this season and has told the Houston Texans he intends never to play for them again, and he would like to be traded. He also faces 22 civil lawsuits by women who accuse him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. A no-trade clause allows him control over a destination, if the Texans are willing to trade him. Despite a flurry of activity before the trade deadline, Watson stayed put. But, until the civil cases are resolved, Watson comes with numerous unknowns, including the possibility of NFL discipline pending the outcome of the league’s investigation.
Winston is the most viable longer-term solution for the Steelers among their free-agent options. Prior to his injury in New Orleans, Winston appeared poised to get his career back on track. In seven appearances, Winston threw 14 touchdowns to three interceptions, completing 59% of his passes. The Steelers had an opportunity to sign Winston when he became a free agent in 2020, but general manager Kevin Colbert said in April 2020 the team didn’t make any offers to any veteran quarterbacks, and Winston ultimately went to the Saints.
Dalton and Bridgewater are just OK options, and at best, would compete with Rudolph for the starting job as a band-aid until a stronger quarterback draft class materializes.
Like the free-agent class, these options are most likely temporary fixes — but intriguing options. Trubisky, a former first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, is backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo on a one-year deal. His best season came in 2018 when he threw 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, and while his tenure as the second-overall pick was disappointing, he has potential to rejuvenate his career in the right circumstance.
Once Washington’s fourth-string quarterback, Heinicke has been pretty solid as the Washington Football Team’s starter after Ryan Fitzpatrick went down. He even helped his team overtake a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in Week 10. He’s under contract in 2022. Washington isn’t likely to part with him, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Tom Brady says his thoughts are on Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ playoff exit, not own future
TAMPA, Fla. — Tom Brady said Sunday night that it was too soon for him to think about his future and that his emotions were still tied to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ heart-breaking, last-second playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams that had ended just minutes earlier.
“Truthfully guys, I’m thinking about this game,” said Brady, who rallied the Bucs from a 27-3 second-half deficit only to watch them fall 30-27. “I’m not thinking about anything past five minutes from now.”
Brady’s comments came after ESPN reported earlier Sunday that the 44-year-old quarterback is undecided about his future, and that while he could return for another season, it is far from a given. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington that Brady plans to take time after the season ends — a month or longer — to assess how he feels physically and mentally while also gauging his family’s desires.
Brady indicated as much after Sunday’s loss.
“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, so you know, we will just take it day by day and kind of see where we are at,” said Brady, who has one year left on his contract.
Asked if he thought about Sunday possibly being the final game of his career as he ran out of the South end zone tunnel at Raymond James Stadium, the seven-time Super Bowl winner said no.
“I was thinking about winning,” he said. “That’s kind of my mentality — always to go out there and try to win. Give my teammates the best chance to win.”
In the end, he ran out of weapons to throw to this season. No Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Breshad Perriman or Cyril Grayson. Tyler Johnson went down with a rib injury and Jaelon Darden a concussion. Tight end Cam Brate was lining up in the slot by game’s end Sunday, and at one point, Brady had a backup right guard filling in at right tackle, because his backup right tackle suffered an ankle injury, on top of a quad injury.
“It’s the reality of football,” said Brady, who lost in the divisional round for just the fourth time in his career. “Every team is really qualified when you get to the final eight, then the final four, then the final two and it doesn’t feel good to lose any one of those games, and I have lost each of those stages. So at the end, there is only one team that is going to be happy. It feels good to move on when you move on, and obviously when you don’t, whether it was last week or this week or next week, the week after, two weeks after that — if you are a loser in that game, it all sucks to lose in the end.”
Coach Bruce Arians said there’s no timetable for when a discussion with Brady about his future will take place.
“That’s totally up to Tom,” Arians said.
The Bucs don’t have a viable successor to Brady on their current roster.
Teammates, many of whom faced questions about Brady’s future this past week, acknowledged the reality of the situation.
“I know Tom’s a competitor. He always say he’s got something to prove, but what more can he do?” inside linebacker Lavonte David said. “He’s the GOAT. He’s done everything he can. If he comes back, obviously we’ll welcome him with open arms. But we’ll have to let him decide that for himself.”
Wide receiver Mike Evans said he won’t make any sort of pitch to Brady.
“I don’t have to say nothing to him,” Evans said. “He’s self-motivated. He knows what he wants. Hopefully we get him back next year. The best player ever, one of the best teammates and one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen.
“I’ve said the last two years: I’m super appreciative that he came to Tampa Bay. Nobody had no clue he was even leaving New England. Just very privileged to play with him.”
The Bucs have 24 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, including aging veterans who, like Brady, have decisions to make — outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski and Jensen, to name a few.
Re-signing all 22 starters like they did last year may not be possible.
“It’s so tough. A lot of these guys are on the last year of their contracts,” David said. “I was the last one to walk in [the locker room]. Seeing the look in everybody’s eyes, it was like, ‘This is a tough one.’ You hate to go out in such a manner. At the end of the day, you know the locker room isn’t going to be the same next year.
“You build relationships with guys and to see them go out the way we did — some people are going to have to move on to certain places. It’s going to be tough because this is the most tight locker room I have ever been around with the greatest chemistry with guys on and off the field. Great leadership with the young guys and the old guys just gelling together. … It’s like a real family-like atmosphere. Luckily you do build bonds with those guys to wish them well in their future endeavors, but we all know it’s gonna be different next year.”
Pierre-Paul, who just turned 33, will undergo surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff he’s played with all season. Asked if he wants to continue playing, he said, “I don’t know. We’ll see after my surgery.”
Fournette, the fourth overall draft pick in 2017 who found a career resurgence with the Bucs after getting released by the Jacksonville Jaguars before the 2020 season, added: “I’m proud of this group — I’m proud of these guys and I’m happy to call myself a Buccaneer.”
A number of players stayed in the locker room long after Sunday’s game was over.
“You have to cherish the relationships that you have with this team,” Fournette said. “They don’t come around too often like that. One of the best groups of guys and coaching staffs I’ve been around. We went out, the way we didn’t want to go out, but at the end of the day, I’m just blessed to be a part of this organization, to have guys like Tom Brady, Gronk, Mike [Evans], Scotty [Miller], [Ryan] Jensen…guys like that…It’s hard, it’s tough.”
Kansas City Chiefs open as touchdown favorites, Los Angeles Rams 3.5-point favorites in conference title games
The Chiefs outlasted the Buffalo Bills in a back-and-forth thriller Sunday night to earn a spot in the AFC Championship Game for a fourth straight season. Caesars Sportsbook opened the Chiefs as 6.5-point favorites over the Bengals. The line quickly moved to Kansas City -7 at sportsbooks around the nation.
In the NFC Championship Game, the Rams opened as 3.5-point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs were the only favorite to survive the divisional round. Three underdogs – San Francisco, Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Rams – pulled outright upsets. It’s only the third time in the Super Bowl era that there has been three outright betting upsets in the divisional round, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Bills nearly made it four outright upsets, something that’s never happened in the division round during the Super Bowl era. Buffalo took a 36-33 lead over Kansas City with 13 seconds to play – only to have Patrick Mahomes move the Chiefs into field-goal position with quick passes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Harrison Butker made a 48-yard kick to force overtime, and Mahomes connected with Kelce for the winning touchdown on the opening drive of overtime.
“I admit I thought the game was over,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. “We had our admin team start setting up a Bengals-Bills AFC title game. Stunning. We were planning on Bills -7.5 versus the Bengals.”
Adam Pullen, assistant director of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, said he would’ve given the Chiefs 10-1 odds to win the game when they started their drive from their 25-line down three with 13 seconds to play.
“I know it’s Mahomes, but 13 seconds,” Pullen said. “It had to be 10-1, maybe higher.”
Sunday’s NFC divisional game also featured a thrilling ending. The SuperBook opened betting on a 49ers-Rams NFC Championship Game after Los Angeles took a 27-3 lead over the Buccaneers in the third quarter. The sportsbook eventually was forced to halt betting on a 49ers-Rams matchup, as the Buccaneers mounted a rally.
Down 27-3, Tampa Bay was 25-1 odds to win the game. The Buccaneers tied the score 27-27 with 42 seconds left in the game, but Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford hit Cooper Kupp on a 44-yard completion down to the Tampa Bay 12-yard line. Kicker Matt Gay connected from 30 yards, sending the Rams to the NFC Championship Game, where they’ll face a 49ers team that’s beaten them six straight times.
“That was about as wild of a playoff game as I could ever remember watching in the book,” Murray said. “At least until the very next game.”
The Chiefs enter championship week as the consensus favorites to win the Super Bowl. Kansas City is +130 to win the Super Bowl at Caesars Sportsbook, followed by the Rams at +210, the 49ers at +450 and the Bengals at +750.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs prevail against Buffalo Bills, win wild AFC divisional game in overtime
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen someday might beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs. But for now, Mahomes and the Chiefs have the solutions for Allen and the Bills in the postseason.
The Chiefs beat the Bills 42-36 in overtime on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium in the divisional round of the playoffs. Mahomes also outdueled Allen in last season’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Bills that sent the Chiefs to Super Bowl LV.
Mahomes’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce on the first possession of overtime won the game.
Mahomes beat the Bills using in large part Allen’s game. Mahomes’ running was as big a part of the Chiefs’ victory as his passing. Mahomes rushed for 69 yards and scored the Chiefs’ first touchdown on an 8-yard run.
The Chiefs’ quarterback also threw for 378 yards, and his first touchdown pass was pure Mahomes. He was chased by pass-rush pressure and seemingly unable to see into the end zone. But with defensive end Jerry Hughes bearing down on him, he jumped and threw into the end zone, where Byron Pringle was there to catch the 2-yard throw.
Zimbabwe cricket – Brendan Taylor says he faces ICC ban for delay in reporting approach
Manchester United ‘finalising transfer shortlist’ with Ralf Rangnick facing seven exits
What to know about 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame vote
Newcastle’s exciting XI if Lingard, Tarkowski, Dembele and four others join before Monday
ICC awards – Babar Azam and Joe Root take ICC men’s honours for 2021
Man Utd chief Richard Arnold 'contacts Gary Neville' as latest managerial details emerge
Tottenham set to use Mauricio Pochettino link to sign former Liverpool star
ICC awards – Smriti Mandhana named ICC Women’s cricketer of the year
Amadou Haidara’s position on RB Leipzig exit as Man Utd boss Ralf Rangnick eyes transfer
Newcastle ‘hoping to change Jesse Lingard’s mind’ as James Tarkowski's stance emerges
NFL6 days ago
Calvin Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson and many tough decisions await Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta Falcons Blog
NBA3 days ago
Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for directing obscene language toward fan
NFL7 days ago
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has ‘slightly’ sprained throwing shoulder, should be OK for Saturday vs. Green Bay Packers
Cricket5 days ago
Graham Thorpe under scrutiny amid reports that cigar smoking caused police intervention
NFL7 days ago
Many changes for Packers-49ers, even the Matt LaFleur-Kyle Shanahan angle – Green Bay Packers Blog
NFL6 days ago
Jerick McKinnon gives Kansas City Chiefs something to think about at running back – Kansas City Chiefs Blog
Cricket5 days ago
BBL 2021-22 – Perth Scorchers penalised for using central replacement player Brayden Stepien incorrectly
Cricket6 days ago
Women’s Ashes 2021-22 – England coach Lisa Keightley