Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger: 'I feel better than I've felt in a long time'
If Aaron Rodgers is next in line to get the a megacontract for NFL quarterbacks, then Ben Roethlisberger is standing in the on-deck circle.
The Steelers quarterback said Thursday he has been monitoring negotiations between the Green Bay Packers and Rodgers.
“Of course. How do you not?” Roethlisberger said in an interview with the Tribune-Review. “That’s all they talk about (on TV), the quarterbacks who have gotten paid. Everyone is kind of antsy to see what Aaron is going to get. He deserves every penny.”
Rodgers ranks No. 10 in quarterback compensation, averaging $22 million per season. He sits two spots above Roethlisberger, whose $21.85 million average is No. 12.
The bar was set earlier this summer when the Atlanta Falcons gave Matt Ryan a deal that averages $30 million per season.
Like Rodgers, Roethlisberger will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Unlike the Packers, the Steelers haven’t actively been negotiating an extension for their franchise quarterback.
And that’s fine with Roethlisberger.
“If there has been talk, it must be small because they haven’t told me about it,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m not worried about the contract stuff. I’ve got this year and next year, and I’m just going to focus on what I’m supposed to focus on.”
When Roethlisberger signed his most recent contract, in March 2015, it came with one year left on his deal. He is fine with taking that same approach at age 36 in what probably will be his final contract negotiations with the Steelers.
“Whatever they want to do is fine,” he said. “If they don’t want to do it until after my last year, so be it.”
Roethlisberger said he won’t try to break the bank with his next contract. He said he is willing to take less money if it helps the Steelers keep the core of the roster intact.
“I’ve done it in the past,” he said. “But that’s out of my hands. That’s for my representatives and the Rooneys. They’ll talk when the time comes. I don’t worry about it because I don’t think anything is going on.”
The offensive play-making triumvirate of Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown-Le’Veon Bell probably will be minus one after the 2018 season. Bell, who couldn’t come to terms on a contract extension 10 days ago, is expected to test free agency after the season.
“That seems to be the way that it is pointing,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s unfortunate because I’ve enjoyed playing with him.”
Roethlisberger doesn’t see any greater sense of urgency for the Steelers to win a seventh Super Bowl title this year because it likely will be Bell’s last ride with the team.
“Not one person can make or break you,” he said. “One person can help you. When you have a core group of guys together, I think that’s the most important thing, and we’ve got a good group. Having Le’Veon will help, so you want to take advantage of those opportunities when you have them.”
Roethlisberger also doesn’t think he’s running out of chances to get the Steelers back to the Super Bowl. They’ve been eliminated in the playoffs the past four seasons and have gone eight years since their last Super Bowl appearance and 10 years since their last championship.
“I am 36, but I think I’m playing better than I ever have played,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t feel like I’ve plateaued yet. I still feel like my arrow is pointing up.”
Roethlisberger hasn’t set a definitive end date for his career and said his future will depend on his health. To that end, he worked with a personal trainer in the offseason while cutting carbs and sugars from his diet.
“I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time,” he said. “I’m definitely lighter than I’ve been in the past 7-8 years. I feel great, my joints feel great.”
Roethlisberger smiled and politely deferred when asked about his weight.
“I don’t know how many years I have left, but I’m going to dedicate those last couple years to doing anything I can do, anything possible to give this team the best ‘me’ I can give them. I think it’s just smart.”
Roethlisberger’s slimmer physique wasn’t lost on coach Mike Tomlin.
“We always say physical conditioning precedes anything else,” Tomlin said. “When a guy shows up in great shape, that often times is the springboard for big-time play.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.