Steelers not rushing Roethlisberger extension

PHOENIX -- The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't rushing the contract extension for Ben Roethlisberger.

General manager Kevin Colbert said from the NFL owners meetings that talks with Roethlisberger are "still ongoing." Roethlisberger turned 37 on March 2 and has one year left on his current contract.

"It's probably his last contract as an NFL player, so it's significant. It's significant for us," said Colbert about the status of a new deal. "We're in a different dynamic from a financial standpoint as far as the cap because we don't have a couple of players with us before. So we have to make sure it all makes sense. It has to make sense for both sides, and we're comfortable at some point we hope it does."

The Steelers currently have around $7.2 million in salary cap space, but that doesn't account for a two-year, $12-million deal for linebacker Mark Barron, which will push the space closer to $3 million.

Roethlisberger was due a $5 million roster bonus on March 15, so once that payment locked in, both sides could take their time. Earlier this month, the Steelers locked up Roethlisberger's closest friend on the team, center Maurkice Pouncey, for an additional two years and $22 million.

Roethlisberger has not commented publicly on recent criticisms from ex-players about his leadership. Before his trade to the Oakland Raiders, wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted Roethlisberger had an "owner mentality" for his willingness to criticize players and coaches who won't challenge him. Running back Le'Veon Bell, now a New York Jet after a year-long holdout on the franchise tag, told Sports Illustrated that Roethlisberger is tough to play with because he "wants to win his way." Other former teammates have taken shots, too.

Colbert hasn't spoken to Roethlisberger this offseason but predicts his quarterback will remain unfazed.

"I think Ben is very comfortable in who he is, what he's doing and what he can still do," Colbert said. "Each and every year, he's out trying to prove who he is. He'll have no agenda other than trying to win a Super Bowl. You can't dictate what someone will say when they are with you and when they leave. But we feel very comfortable in knowing that Ben Roethlisberger is our quarterback and is our leader.

"Ben is an unquestionable top quarterback in this league. He's a Hall of Fame quarterback. He's won Super Bowls. I know he's comfortable with that, he's comfortable with that. And we're always going to support him in that role. "

In 2018, Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing with 5,129 yards and posted a career-high 34 touchdowns. Now, the Steelers will ask him to lead the offense without Bell and Brown.

The team hopes to help with 10 selections in this year's draft, including third- and fifth-round picks it acquired from Oakland in the Brown deal. Colbert said he took those picks "without hesitation" despite the perception they had settled because Brown sabotaged his trade value with demands for a new contract and bizarre behavior.

With four of the first 83 picks, trading up is a possibility, Colbert said.

"Right now we have to establish who we are in 2019 -- 2018 is history," he said. "We don't like being in a position where we're not a playoff team. That's not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination."