Friday, January 10, 2014

Art Rooney II: State of the Steelers - Offense And The Need To Sign Roethlisberger

Golf legend Tiger Woods has been known to say that "you don't win a tournament with one round (on Thursday), but you can lose it with one round." Your typical PGA Tour tournament begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Four days of rounds where, if you stumble out of the gate, you can put yourself too far behind the clubhouse leader to be able to comeback and win.

That's exactly what the Pittsburgh Steelers did in the 2013 season. When they lost their first four games, they dug themselves too deep of a hole and missed the playoffs by a foot - literally and figuratively.

But it was the surge in the second half of the season that has team president Art Rooney II optimistic.

"I certainly liked the way we finished," said Art II in his season-ending interview. "Unfortunately, we got off to a slow start. I liked the way we finished....You want a team that's playing its best at the end. I think for the most part that's what we did, and that leaves me excited for next season already. We're looking forward to getting started on preparing for next year."

The finish he's referring to is a 6-2 record, a 28 points-per-game average, a +7 in turnover ratio and, maybe most importantly, No. 7 was only sacked seven times in the final seven games.

"There's no question, Ben, like the team, got better as the season went on," said Art II. "You have to like the fact he stayed relatively clean the second half of the season. There's no doubt that's what we'd like to see. We'd like to see him last another five, six or seven years, whatever it is. In order to do that, we have to protect him, and he has to protect himself."

In order for him to "last another five, six or seven years", he has to be under contract also, though. The Steelers generally sign their quarterbacks, as well as other players, with two years remaining on their deal. Well, Ben Roethlisberger has two years remaining on his deal.

However, Art II seemed to indicate that the head brass wouldn't necessarily do that.

Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette Art II said that Big Ben knows “our intention is we want him here beyond this contact.” He even said he would want Big Ben to "retire" a Steeler.

"We've got to have Ben retire as a Steeler," Art II said. "There's no doubt about that."

But Art II added that the team possibly won’t extend the current contract in 2014 or 2015. He said that’s “not set in stone . . . it’s not something that’s automatic.” - http://tinyurl.com/lkeu9tp

That may not be the best choice. There's already enough dead money owed which hurts the Cap, plus Big Ben's Cap restrictions.

As was brought out in an article by Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review brought out, “That kills every team, if they’ve got dead money, the cap is against them — on a very flat cap (a cap that doesn’t go up much from season to season). When you pay your quarterback a lot of money like they pay Big Ben, and you look around the league right now, every team that’s paying a quarterback $20 million or thereabouts, none of their defenses are top 10 defenses." - http://tinyurl.com/l97wt3f

So striking while the iron is hot and freeing up money would seem to be the best bet - for Big Ben and for the Steelers - as Steel City Blitz's Marc Uhlmann also points out.

"My suggestion...get a new deal done for Roethlisberger now rather than later....The longer the two sides sit without a new deal, the worse things will get. Keep in mind both sides had to deal with the report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport that the Steelers and Roethlisberger were ready to part ways at this season’s end." - http://tinyurl.com/ma72wcv

Maybe the Steelers will just ask him to do one more, if you will, "minor" restructure for now. That would convert a portion of his $12.1 million salary to an offseason signing bonus, with half of the amount counting against this year’s Salary Cap and the other half against next year's.

I hope not. Either way, though, something has to be done sooner than later.

~

TIDBITS: Running Backs - Who will be the backup to Le'Veon Bell next season? As for who the primary backup will be? Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones, and LaRod Stephens-Howling are all free agents.
Likely, two of them come back on a veteran minimum or qualifying contract.

Jonathan Dwyer is my choice and the only one I could see making it through Training Camp. Being that he’s still only 24 years old and has had some good games, he unfortunately could get interest elsewhere also.

Felix Jones was the first one off the bench late in the season, so I think Jones probably makes the team in some fashion being that the Steelers do need a regular kick returner. However, OC Todd Haley likes small-ish backs who are elusive and can catch passes out of the backfield. At 5'10 and 215 LBs, Jones doesn't exactly fit that mold. That brings us to...

LASH at least gets a Camp invite. He's still recovering from his knee injury, but if the versatile back is healthy enough to practice he'll be able to compete at and for a couple of different roles.