The Pittsburgh Steelers will look at new deals for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Le’Veon Bell
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers will explore extending quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s contract at some point and want to sign running back Le’Veon Bell to a long-term deal this offseason, team president Art Rooney II told a small group of reporters Wednesday.
Roethlisberger, 35, has expressed to the team that he wants to play beyond his current contract, which features two more years.
“We haven’t had a long conversation about that other than him saying he is interested in playing beyond his contract,” Rooney said. “That’s good news to me, and certainly his play this year makes you feel like he does have a few years left. All that is great in terms of the contract. We’ll address that at the right time. But bottom line is we’re excited that’s the way he feels and we’ll continue to work with him and hopefully get a couple more rings with him.”
Roethlisberger finished the year strongly, averaging 348 yards and three touchdowns per game over his final seven contests.
Signing Roethlisberger and Bell, who will be a free agent if he isn’t franchise-tagged for the second consecutive year, would keep the Steelers’ Killer B’s trio of Bell, Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown intact.
Rooney said the Steelers have the “next several weeks” to reach a deal with Bell but stayed neutral on whether the team would apply the tag, which is worth around $14.5 million.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Rooney said.
Bell told ESPN at last month’s Pro Bowl that completing a deal before Feb. 20 — the first day that teams can designate franchise or transition tags — is “definitely a goal” for both parties.
“With every signing we do, we look at all the facts,” Rooney said about Bell’s deal. “The player on the other side is looking at the same things. The bottom line is, can you come together and have a meeting of the minds? That’s what we’ve got to work on. … I think the good news is both sides want to get something done here, and hopefully that will lead to us getting it done.”
Bell also said last month that he believes both parties are closer to a contract than last year, when he skipped all of training camp and played the season on a $12.1 million franchise tag.
Rooney sounds ready to keep the Steelers’ core together despite a 45-42 loss to Jacksonville in the AFC divisional playoff round. He would like to see improvements in third-down/red zone offense and rushing defense but believes that Mike Tomlin’s track record as one of the league’s best coaches “speaks for itself.”
“It’s always easy for people to say, well, you know, you should get rid of your coach,” Rooney said. “OK, well, who are you hiring next? So, there’s another part of that question that people don’t want to get into. And, I’m very comfortable that Mike is our coach and happy that he’s our coach. I think he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL.”
When asked about the constant drama surrounding the team and the perception that the team was distracted by the opportunity to face New England in the AFC Championship Game, Rooney responded: “I would say you don’t win 13 games if you’re not a focused group.”