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Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers in early contract talks

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Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II made it clear last month that Ben Roethlisberger's contract will be a priority this offseason.

General manager Kevin Colbert revealed Tuesday that the team has officially begun preliminary negotiations with the franchise quarterback, though there is no timeline for a deal to be finalized.

Roethlisberger, 33, is headed for a nine-figure contract. That doesn't concern Colbert, who compared his quarterback to others that have excelled in their mid-30s, such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

"I think Ben is going to be better quarterback down the road than he has to this point," Colbert explained. "He'll get better with good players around him."

Here's what else we learned from Colbert on Tuesday:

1. Although his preference is to avoid the franchise and/or transition tag, Colbert wants to find a way to keep impending free agent pass rusher Jason Worilds.

"He had a good year for us," Colbert said. "He's still a young, ascending player. I don't think you've seen the best of Jason Worilds."

2. Because Jarvis Jones is the only experienced outside linebacker under contract, Colbert will target pass rushers and help for the secondary in free agency and the draft. He believes this year's draft class is a good one for outside linebackers and cornerbacks.

3. With Matt Spaeth due to hit the open market, Colbert is a "little concerned" about the lack of depth behind Heath Miller at tight end. That might be the only offensive position addressed by the late rounds of the draft.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the free-agent quarterback market and discusses Peyton Manning's future. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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