With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Pittsburgh Steelers:
2018 cap hits of top returnees
Ben Roethlisberger -- $23.2 million
Landry Jones -- $2.2 million
Josh Dobbs -- $694,781
Key stat: The best stat to describe the Steelers' quarterback play is 21, the number of touchdown passes Ben Roethlisberger threw over his final seven games of 2017. During that stretch, he also recorded 346 yards per game. After his passer rating dipped to the low 80s at midseason, Roethlisberger caught fire late and spun positive momentum toward 2018.
Money matters: The Steelers have one of the league's soundest quarterback payrolls. Roethlisberger is due $12 million in salary and a $6 million roster bonus, a bargain for a top-shelf quarterback who just turned 36. With two years left on a contract that averages around $20 million per year, Roethlisberger will eventually get one last extension. That deal should easily eclipse $25 million annually. In 2017, Jones signed a team-friendly contract that paid out a modest $600,000 signing bonus. He's on the lower end of backup quarterback earners.
Big picture: Roethlisberger's 14-year run as the starter has allowed the Steelers to invest in the rest of the roster without the urgency to bolster its quarterback portfolio. The team hasn't invested a pick on a quarterback in the first three rounds since Big Ben went 11th overall in 2004. Eventually, the team must find Roethlisberger's successor, and that process could take flight with a deep 2018 quarterback class. But there's no pressure to do that just yet. The team considers Jones a high-level backup and believes in Dobbs' potential, though he's still in the developmental phase.
The game plan: New offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and Roethlisberger will collaborate on an offensive attack that they hope maximizes Roethlisberger's skill set in 2018. Roethlisberger is close with Fichtner, his longtime position coach, and will have his handprints all over the pace of the offense, especially with his favorite no-huddle attack. The Steelers believe Roethlisberger has a few more prime years left and will work to extend the quarterback's contract at some point this offseason or next. Jones has one year left on his deal, but if the team wants him to return in 2019, that should be an easy negotiation. Jones didn't have an option to start in the NFL the last time he hit free agency, so returning to Pittsburgh on a backup deal makes sense.