Home » NFL Rookies » Steelers president Art Rooney II talks 17-game schedule, why he wanted Big Ben back and team’s RB future

Steelers president Art Rooney II talks 17-game schedule, why he wanted Big Ben back and team’s RB future

Art Rooney II has seen just about everything during his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A ballboy for the team during the 1960s, Rooney, the godson of Steelers founder Art Rooney, had a front row seat to the Steelers’ ascension from NFL doormat to league royalty during the 1970s. A former managing partner of a law firm, Rooney succeeded his father, Dan Rooney, as the Steelers president in 2003. Under his watch, the Steelers have added two more Vince Lombardi Trophies to their collection. 

The 2021 offseason has brought unique challenges to not only Rooney’s team but the entire NFL. The pandemic has led to a reduced salary cap, which played a role in the Steelers having to part ways with several key plays via free agency. Rooney and the Steelers also faced questions regarding the future of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played well in 2020 after undergoing major elbow surgery the previous fall. 

Rooney recently answered questions from Steelers fans as Pittsburgh continues its preparations for the upcoming season. Here are a few a Rooney’s notable answers from the 20-minute session. 

On the decision to bring Ben Roethlisberger back for the 2021 season 

“We wanted Ben back, and the key to it really was to be able to restructure his contract in a way that allowed us to keep Ben and really be able to sign some other players. So Ben cooperated with that and was willing to make some changes in his contract, and that allowed us to keep him on the team for this year, which was always our goal. 

“I thought Ben had a very good year last year for somebody that was coming off of arm surgery. Hopefully, he’ll have an even better year this year with another year under his belt in terms of recovering from that arm surgery … . We’re excited to have him back for this season.”

On the re-signing of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who turned down offers from other teams to remain in Pittsburgh 

“JuJu was an important part of our offense last year and has been for the last few years. We were certainly hopeful that we would be able to sign JuJu back … . The one thing about JuJu is that he really wanted to come back, and that certainly helped a lot. I’m glad we got him back, and looking forward to him having another good year for us in 2021.”

On a 17-game regular season, which will likely be approved during the annual owners meeting

“The 17-game schedule, I think, will work out well. Obviously, this year will be the first year for it, so we’ll get a chance to see how it goes. I think we’ll reduce the preseason by one game. It will be a similar kind of schedule just in terms of the calendar, but we’ll just turn one of the preseason games into a regular season game, which I think all of us would appreciate. I feel good about it, I hope it works, and I look forward to seeing how it does in 2021.” 

On improving a Steelers rushing attack that finished dead last in the NFL in 2020 

“We’ve got to be a lot better in running, and certainly, we don’t want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers being last in the league in rushing ever again. I think it’s something that our coaches are focused on, and we’ll be focused on ways to improve in the draft. It’s something we’ve got to fix, and we’re working on it.” 

On re-signing outside T.J. Watt, who is going into the final year of his rookie contract 

“I can assure you we will do everything we can to keep T.J. on the roster beyond this year. That’s the goal.” 


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