Steelers president expects Big Ben back in 2017


PITTSBURGH — Steelers president Art Rooney II said Tuesday that he expects Ben Roethlisberger to return for a 14th NFL season because of the quarterback’s desire to win a third Super Bowl.

Rooney II said he recently spoke to Roethlisberger, who told 93.7 The Fan last week that he’s evaluating his playing career.

Roethlisberger’s hesitation is probably “a combination of things,” Rooney II said. “Coming off a long season and a tough loss, and in this age in his career it’s not crazy to have thoughts about, ‘What’s the rest of my career going to be like?’ So, I think we had a good conversation. Obviously, he’s got to make his decision. I expect he’ll be back but he’s got to make that decision.”

Rooney II said he believes winning is Roethlisberger’s “No. 1 motivation,” and that the QB has grown into more of a leader in recent years.

Roethlisberger is one-third of a potent offensive trio that includes wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, both of whom Rooney II would like to see in Steelers uniforms long term.

The Steelers want to re-sign Brown, who enters the last year of a contract due to pay him $4.7 million in 2017. Rooney II said he believes Brown will learn and grow from the Facebook Live distraction in the days before the AFC title game loss to the Patriots, and that Brown’s work ethic and good intentions outweigh any issues.

Brown is the first NFL player since Marvin Harrison to record four consecutive 100-catch seasons.

“Our intention is to try to get a contract extension done with Antonio,” Rooney II said. “We’ll get to work on that … Some of the off-the-field things, I think, for the most part are things that I don’t think had a big impact on the team. Hopefully in the future he’ll keep them to the minimal type of distractions.”

Bell, a 2017 free agent, could make around $12.4 million on a franchise tag if the team chooses to use it on him. The Steelers, though, are looking beyond a one-year placeholder for the star running back.

Rooney II hopes Bell’s back-to-back suspensions for violations of the league substance-abuse policy are “in the past.”

“I feel like it is and he understands what he needs to do to be a successful player in this league for the long term,” Rooney said. “I’m confident he’ll be a player we can count on in the future.”

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