If Kevin Colbert is correct, the Steelers will have their trio of "Killer Bs" intact for at least one more season.
The Steelers general manager told reporters Thursday he does not believe quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will retire and said long-term contracts for wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell are priorities.
Roethlisberger, who will turn 35 on March 2, alluded to possible retirement during a radio interview last month. His five-year, $99 million contract runs through the 2019 season.
"Where it stands is, Ben said that it’s a possibility, and we’ll treat it as such," Colbert said of Roethlisberger's possible retirement. "We hope he doesn’t retire. If he does, then as an organization we’ll try to move on, and we will move on.
"It doesn’t change our planning," Colbert continued. "When we scout in the fall, we scout every position. Even when Ben was a young player, we still evaluated the quarterback class, because how the quarterbacks stack up (in the draft) is going to affect how the tackles stack up and how the receivers stack up. We always evaluate every position, and if Ben would decide to retire we would be prepared then to move accordingly. I hope we don’t get to that situation for a few more years.
"I’m working under the assumption that until he says he’s retired officially, then he’s not. If he decides to (retire), then we’ll act accordingly, but in the meantime we’re not going to get out of sorts with potential retirements... I’m hopeful and confident Ben will be back."
Roethlisberger has been with the Steelers, who took him with the 11th pick in the 2004 draft, his entire 13-year career. He figures to retire as a member of the Steelers, which is also how Colbert wants Bell to end his career.
The two sides have to work out a long-term deal and the Steelers could place the franchise tag on Bell by March 1 to prevent him from becoming a free agent on March 9. Bell was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 2013 and has rushed for 4,045 yards and 26 touchdowns despite missing 14 games because of injuries and suspensions.
"The tag is always an option, and it’s something we’ll use if necessary," Colbert said. "We have until March to make the decision … this thing is very fluid. It changes daily, once you start into talks with players and start to see how it’s all going to fit. We know that’s an option.
"Even if we were to use the tag on Le’Veon, we would certainly want to do something long-term and have him be a member of the Steelers for life."
Colbert had the same sentiment on Brown, who was a sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 and is entering the final year of his contract. Brown has had four straight seasons of at least 100 receptions and led the league in catches in 2014 and 2015. His 136 receptions for 1,834 yards in 2015 broke his own franchise records set a year earlier, when he established a team record with 13 touchdowns.
"I can say that Antonio is the only one we’re in specific negotiations with now," Colbert said. "I can say unequivocally that we want Antonio Brown to retire as a member of the Steelers just as we want Le’Veon Bell to retire as a member of the Steelers."