Big Ben

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. (Photo by Alan Freed/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said it was his idea to take a voluntary pay cut and help ensure his return for an 18th season.

Roethlisberger spoke for the first time on Tuesday since he agreed to a new contract in March that assured the 39-year-old would be back with the Steelers in 2021, the only NFL team he’s ever known.

“I told (the front office) I want to help the team out however I can,” Roethlisberger said. “I told them I would do whatever I could to help the team sign guys that are going to help us win football games.

“I knew we had a great defense and some amazing weapons on offense, so I wanted to come back and be part of what I think is a special football team. In order to do that, I felt it was necessary to (take a pay cut).”

The Steelers made no secret of the need for Roethlisberger to take a pay cut to ease some of the burden of a $41 million salary cap hit that was scheduled for 2021.

Steelers president Art Rooney II, coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert all expressed the desire to bring back Roethlisberger, but they stressed the need to do it in a way that gave the team some financial flexibility.

Roethlisberger was happy to oblige.

“I’ll always bleed black and gold,” Roethlisberger said. “I didn’t want to go anywhere. I told the Rooneys and Coach Tomlin that I wanted to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere else. This is home to me. Almost half of my life has been here playing football for the Steelers. That’s why I took a pay cut to stay here and help this team because I believe in this group.”

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