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What’s next for Ben Roethlisberger?

The FNIA crew recaps the Browns' impressive win over the Steelers despite all the COVID obstacles Cleveland dealt with leading up to the game.

Near the end of Sunday night’s playoff loss to the Browns, the image of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sitting alone of the bench screamed through the TV, “It’s over.”

Whether it is or isn’t, or should be or shouldn’t, will be a subject of discussion and debate for weeks to come.

Roethlisberger will hint that he may be done, but he’ll eventually explain that he’s taking some time in order to make his future the subject of attention, locally and nationally. At least for a while. Then, he’ll let his decision be known.

If he retires, the Steelers will carry $22.25 million in dead cap space in his name next season. If he stays, Roethlisberger’s cap charge will be $41.25 million. An extension will be critical to knocking down that cap charge, even if he’s plays only one more year. (If he retires, the Steelers could seek repayment of $12.5 million in unearned signing bonus money.)

A decision needs to happen by the third day of the 2021 league year. That’s when Ben is due to earn a $15 million roster bonus. If he’s cut before the money becomes due, he’d owe the Steelers nothing. And if he refuses to re-do his contract, the Steelers possibility would cut him in lieu of having a $41.25 million cap charge on the books.

Roethlisberger turns 38 on March 2, and he looks every bit of it. Years of physical play, along with carrying around plenty of mass on his frame, have left him rickety. He supposedly has knee issues, even if they haven’t shown up on the injury report lately.

If Roethlisberger retires, he exits with a 501-yard game, fueled by a postseason-record 68 passes. But he also threw four interceptions. Most importantly, the Steelers lost to the Browns in Pittsburgh for the first time in Roethlisberger’s 17-year career.

We’ll post another story based on whatever he says during his post-game press conference. Who knows? Maybe he’ll say he’s done. Then again, maybe he doesn’t need to say anything. Maybe his demeanor on the sideline late in the game says it all.