Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert had multiple chances during Wednesday's discussion with reporters to firmly stand behind Ben Roethlisberger being the team's QB in 2021.
Instead, Colbert gave lukewarm responses.
The GM told reporters that in meetings with himself, owner Art Rooney II and coach Mike Tomlin, Big Ben reiterated he wants to continue to play.
"We told him quite frankly we have to look at this current situation" Colbert said, per a team transcript.
Roethlisberger is due to count $41.25 million against the Steelers' salary cap under his current contract. Pittsburgh brass has previously noted that something would need to be done with the QB's contract to remain on the roster. Big Ben has sounded amicable to finding a solution that allows him to stay with the Steelers QB for an 18th season.
Given Colbert's deliberate language, it's possible the Steelers are preparing to move on.
"As we sit here today," Colbert said. "Ben is a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
Colbert's comments call to mind Rams GM Les Snead discussing Jared Goff right before L.A. dumped the QB in a trade for Matthew Stafford.
If the Steelers move on from Roethlisberger, he'd still count $22.5 million against their salary cap.
It's possible Colbert's comments are meant to soften Big Ben in a move toward a team-friendly solution to the contract quandary. The GM noted that the Steelers' financial situation takes precedence in all decisions.
"It is first and foremost financially because we have to be in compliance and then we are making guesstimates as to what we can do to put the best team together for our sake and for Ben's sake," Colbert said. "What kind of team can he anticipate being around him if we decide we can move forward together?"
The door isn't closed on Big Ben returning, but Colbert's language certainly wasn't as forceful or glowing as we've heard from the long-time GM in previous seasons.
"Ben Roethlisberger did a lot of really good things last year and we anticipate that he could still do some good things moving forward," Colbert said. "Hopefully, there is a way we could try and figure out and do what's best for the organization and do what's best for Ben. And hopefully, he will be able to do that and feel the same way we do.
"But there's a lot of work that needs to be done."