The team announced Monday that Big Ben would need to undergo surgery to repair the elbow ending his season and leaving a trail of questions in his wake.
While the on-field ramifications will dominate discussion over the course of the next several days, there is another just as important aspect that can’t be overlooked.
Roethlisberger just signed an extension with the team this spring that was worth $68 million with a $37.5 million signing bonus. That deal seemed fine at the time as Ben was healthy and the rules of the game have generally allowed quarterbacks to play deeper into their careers than in previous eras.
However, with the injury to his elbow, the contract becomes a bit more shaky. And, as Spotrac reports, the money included in the contract contains $30 million worth that is guaranteed for injury in 2020 and 2021.
Ben Roethlisberger’s contract came with $16M of injury guarantee in 2020 & $14M more in 2021, which means that should be be unable to return after 2019, the #Steelers would be sunk with $55M of dead cap. https://t.co/rV2WYKxcQA
— Spotrac (@spotrac) September 16, 2019
Depending on the severity of the injury, it is possible that Roethlisberger, at age 38 as of next spring, may not be able to make it back. If that were to be the case, the $55 million in dead cap money would certainly affect how the Steelers are able to operate in the offseason for the next two years.
To further pile insult on top of injury, with Roethlisberger out and Antonio Brown now playing for the New England Patriots, the Steelers two largest cap hits for this season are not playing for the team.
Steelers' two largest cap hits for 2019:
Ben Roethlisberger ($26.2M): Out for the year
Antonio Brown ($21.2M): Now a Patriot
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 16, 2019
The team has not said specifically what the injury to Roethlisberger’s elbow was diagnosed as, but there has been plenty of speculation that it is a torn ulnar collateral ligament or UCL, which has become known for the surgery required to fix it: Tommy John.
When I called Jake Delhomme very early this morning, he didn't even say hello. It was, "You're calling about Ben Roethlisberger, aren't you? As soon as I saw it, looked just like my injury." – The UCL tear in right elbow, which led to Tommy John surgery in October 2007.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 16, 2019
On a positive note, Delhomme did return from surgery and lead the Carolina Panthers to a 12-4 record throwing for over 3,200 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008. But, the elbow issues did continue for him and he was out of the league by 2011.