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JOHN STEIGERWALD: Is Roethlisberger worth it?

on November 16, 2013 10:59 AM

Who’s spreading those lies about Ben Roethlisberger?

Did Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network wake up last Sunday morning and decide to break up the monotony by making up a story about the Steelers possibly looking to trade their franchise quarterback, who (Rapaport says) has let them know that he is unhappy with the direction of the team?

Rapaport wrote that his sources with the Steelers wouldn’t be surprised if Roethlisberger asked to be traded in the offseason. He also wrote that there would probably be a major overhaul of the offensive coaching staff before next season.

Rapaport has never backed off his story despite strong denials from Roethlisberger and Steelers president Art Rooney II.

Did Mike Silver, also of the NFL Network, decide that two could play the make-up game and deliver a whopper of his own when he said during halftime of the Titans-Colts game Thursday night, “When he’s away from the facility he’s no Peyton Manning. That is the biggest obstacle to him staying.”

In other words, according to Silver, the coaches don’t think Ben does his homework.

Roethlisberger expressed his love for Pittsburgh, the Steelers and Steelers fans at every opportunity since Rapaport’s original story.

There are lots of theories out there about what exactly is going on.

My favorite is that Art and Dan Rooney used their piece of the network that they own to float these stories in order to get reaction from Roethlisberger. They may have to renegotiate a contract with him next summer, and it might require $20 million a year to make him happy. The theory is that the Rooneys are hoping Ben will back himself into a corner by saying he would never play for another team and be pressured into taking less.

Far-fetched? Maybe.

But not nearly as far-fetched as two longtime, highly respected NFL writers waking up one day and making up stories.

Some other factors to consider:

Art Rooney II has a major credibility problem ever since he “retired” former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and then blamed it on his head coach. His denials mean nothing.

Roethlisberger is 31 and has a lot of miles on him. The Steelers may not be in salary cap hell, but they’re going to probably at least spend some time in purgatory. Does it make sense for a team that is rebuilding or reloading to devote $20 million to its quarterback?

The Steelers are old. They could use some extra draft picks. Roethlisberger could bring several picks, including at least one No. 1.

• The Ravens gave Joe Flacco a six-year, $120 million contract.

That was the richest contract in NFL history until the Packers gave Aaron Rodgers $110 million for five years. Flacco is the 25th-ranked quarterback in the NFL right now. Injuries, retirements and salary-cap issues broke up the Super Bowl team around him.

Do you think the talent around Roethlisberger is likely to get better or worse over the next two years?

Do you think the Rooneys have noticed what happened to Flacco?

Roethlisberger made an interesting comment last week when he was asked whom he thought was the best quarterback in the NFL. His answer was Tom Brady because of his three Super Bowl wins. He said that’s how he thinks quarterbacks should be judged. Flacco, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have only one Super Bowl win.

He has two.

Unless he’s considering offering a home-town discount, Roethlisberger, based on his own criteria, would expect no less than $100 million for five years and maybe a little more.

Rebuilding is a dirty word in the Steelers office, but if they decide that’s what they’re going to be doing after this season, it would make perfect sense to start that process with a young and less expensive quarterback. And it would make just as much sense to Roethlisberger.

• The media, not surprisingly, have been having a field day with the story of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s admission that he smoked crack cocaine.

It would be nice if they spent as much time ridiculing the politicians in Cobb County, Georgia, who are planning to confiscate a half-billion dollars from the taxpayers to build a new ballpark for the Atlanta Braves.

The fine citizens of Cobb County would be better served if their “leaders” had been smoking crack instead of secretly conniving to give millions of taxpayer dollars to a team owner who’s worth $6.7 billion. Especially, when you consider that the ballpark the Braves are playing in now opened in 1997 — four years before PNC Park.

Liberty Media, the company that owns the Braves, took in $18 billion in revenue last year. That’s 18,000 million. If Liberty were to pay for its own ballpark, the debt service (mortgage) would be between $21 million and $27 million a year.

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