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Steelers desire to keep Roethlisberger regardless of salary cap issues

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had ups and downs, but even during the past two seasons his performance has kept the Steelers organization invested in his place on the roster. The biggest issue facing the Steelers will be investing critical salary cap money on their franchise quarterback. Roethlisberger's cap numbers of $18,895 and $18,395 respectfully over the next two years may indicate that if general manager Kevin Colbert is sincere about recent comments in regard to wanting Roethlisberger to finish his career with Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger may have to come to terms with a restructuring of his salary.

Colbert made a statement on Wednesday during an interview on 93.7 The Fan on The Cook and Poni Show that showed the respect he has for Roethlisberger. "We all recognize we are very fortunate to have a franchise quarterback," said Colbert. "(Roethlisberger) still has a lot of tread on the tires. We feel great about how last season finished and we hope to build on that. It's unanimous we all want Ben to finish his career here."

This weekend is highly important to next season as the Steelers organization and Colbert gather in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. The goal is to find answers to not only the draft process, but how the team will deal with free agency. "We have some decisions to make," Cobert said. "We have some cap issues, but it's not overwhelming. We have got to go through the whole process and make the best decisions we can. There are so many moving parts. This will continue up to the free agency March 11 deadline and beyond."

Pittsburgh has extended quarterbacks in the past who had two years left on their contracts. Steelers president Art Rooney II admitted that there was no "automatic" plan to do so during this offseason. Roethlisberger's current contract is through the 2015 season, and Rooney said early this year that the team's "intention is we want him here beyond this contract."

Roethlisberger could opt to work with the organization by agreeing to his base salary and possibly an offseason bonus. Roethlisberger is slated to make $12.1 million in base salary for 2014. Under a simple restructuring plan, the Steelers could covert part of that base to an offseason signing bonus, freeing up cap room for free agency and draft signings.

If Roethlisberger received the franchise tag in 2016, he would garner a 20-percent raise of his $18, 395 million cap number to a tune of $22,074 million.

The question will be whether Roethlisberger's desire to stay with Pittsburgh will be enough to create a dialogue with the Steelers that works both ways or whether he will push for an extension this offseason, possibly creating a need for the "unanimous" statement by Colbert to be retracted.

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