Steelers are paying Ben Roethlisberger to galvanize team

Roethlisberger facing the most pressure of any Steelers player (0:59)

Ryan Clark explains that Ben Roethlisberger will be scrutinized more after the departures of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. (0:59)

PITTSBURGH -- For months, Ben Roethlisberger stayed quiet as Antonio Brown questioned his loyalty and ex-teammates questioned his leadership. Fighting back in the mud pit did him little good.

But the sizable raise the Pittsburgh Steelers handed him just before the draft speaks loudly. Roethlisberger’s three-year extension worth $80 million places him among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league based on new money, worth well north of $30 million per year for the two new years (Roethlisberger had one year left on his previous deal at a $12 million salary, which was reworked into this deal).

What Roethlisberger, 37, does with his last contract in a black-and-gold uniform can redirect momentum after the Steelers' disappointing 2018 and allow him to finish his career in a positive place.

The Steelers have put the onus on Roethlisberger to rally a team that felt the aftereffects of Le'Veon Bell's holdout and Brown's forced trade. It's a team so fatigued with the attacks on its own locker room that it issued a PSA to curb the bashing.

Roethlisberger will have his own questions to answer, to be sure. Thanks in part to Brown's claim that his ex-quarterback has an "owner mentality," Roethlisberger faces the perception that he's treated as above the team. But Roethlisberger can directly address that claim and send a clear message of unity at his eventual news conference announcing his extension.

Then it will be time to get to work, and Roethlisberger can set a tone that this offseason will be focused and distraction-free.

Once it's time to play, the distractions should fade. Replacing Brown is an arduous task, but Roethlisberger is among the NFL's best at spreading the ball to various receivers. In the two-minute drill, Roethlisberger is still a top-five quarterback. The biggest reason the Steelers haven't had a losing season since 2003 is the quarterback they just re-signed for the third time.

Those deals are getting shorter, from an eight-year, $102 million deal in 2008 to a five-year, $99 million deal in 2014 to Thursday's deal, which essentially adds two years to an existing contract.

That will take him to age 39 in his final season, but not adding that third year reminds that the Steelers can see the finish line.

A legacy with two Super Bowls and Hall of Fame passing numbers has been cemented. But Roethlisberger has more to offer, and his last chapter can quiet some of his critics if he can galvanize a team that lost major star power in less than a year.

The last Killer B standing must stand tall.