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Are the Steelers still willing/able to pay Ben Roethlisberger $19 million this year?

It’s one thing for the Steelers to want to bring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back for another year. It’s quite another for the Steelers to want to pay him the full $19 million he’s due to make in 2021.

It’s currently unclear whether the Steelers will try to get Roethlisberger to take less money. If it’s simply a matter of moving money around, it’s an easy proposition: Reduce his total compensation from $19 million to the veteran minimum of $1.075 million and turn the rest into a signing bonus to be spread over multiple years. As explained last month, a new four-year deal with three dummy years and a $17.925 million bonus would drop Roethlisberger’s 2021 cap number from $41.25 million to $26.73 million.

That’s an easy approach, one that gives Roethlisberger every penny he’s due to make and that minimizes his cap burden. It’s not something that should require meetings and conferences and anything other than an email or two between team and agent.

Thus, it’s fair to wonder whether the Steelers want to reduce Roethlisberger’s compensation for 2021 below the $19 million he’s due to earn. Although Roethlisberger has said that he doesn’t care about his pay, he surely does. (He should.) So how less is he willing to take before drawing a line in the sand?

Another possibility would be to convert some of his 2021 pay into a so-called “not likely to be earned” incentive, allowing the cap charge to be pushed to 2021 — if Roethlisberger meets the trigger(s) for the payment. That could be a middle ground that gives Roethlisberger a way to make the full $19 million if he performs at a sufficiently high level.

Regardless of how it plays out, if it were easy to figure out a new contract for Roethlisberger, it already would be done. Until it is done, it’s fair to wonder whether an impasse eventually will be reached.

However it plays out, the clock is ticking. Roethlisberger is due to earn a $15 million roster bonus on March 19. Whatever team and player do, they need to do it before March 19.

Actually, they need to do it before 4:01 p.m. ET on March 17. That’s when the Steelers will be required to be under the 2021 cap (whatever it is), and when Roethlisberger under his current deal will count for $41.25 million.