2011 Salary Cap

Steelers Show Cash Flow Not A Problem During 2011 Offseason

Following the lockout the Steelers offseason has been filled with the writing of several big checks with the latest being the new 4-year, 36.5 million contract for the all-everything safety Troy Polamalu that took place at the airport today, just before the Steelers left for Baltimore. The Steelers had a long laundry list of things to do in a short period of time and they proved that the salary cap and cash flow was not an obstacle for them.

Several people have asked me via Twitter and email just how much the Steelers have spent this offseason, so I thought I would break it down before the season started.

Following the lockout the Steelers had two priority unrestricted free agents that they wanted to sign in cornerback Ike Taylor and tackle Willie Colon. There was never a doubt that Taylor was a priority, but the cold shoulder that Colon seemed to be getting left many to wonder, including myself, if he was in the plans or could be afforded. The Steelers locked Taylor up first with a 4-year, $28 million contract that included a $7.25 signing bonus and $750 thousand roster bonus. Colon was not far behind with a 5-year, $29 million contract of his own that included a $6 million signing bonus. It was not even August 1st yet and the Steelers had two checks written totaling $14 million. That is not a huge amount, but there was still a lot of work and spending yet to come as you will see.

The Steelers needed cap room for upcoming player signings to get cap compliant with the rule of 51 and were forced to restructure several veteran players’ contracts. These restructures involved turning base salary money into signing bonus money to lower that player’s cap hit. Those restructures require checks to written out for the amount of the base salary that was turned into signing bonus and the players that were restructured were Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Brett Keisel, Heath Miller and Chris Kemoeatu. In total that amounted to $14.394 million in restructure monies that needed to be paid out. In just a matter of a week or so the Steelers had paid out $28.394 million to 7 players and training camp had just started.

Not to be lost in the timeline were the draft picks and the undrafted free agents that totaled up to be roughly $5.5 million in signing bonuses.

Prior to the lockout the Steelers placed the franchise tag on outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley with their eyes set on locking him up with a new deal as soon as the lockout ended. That contract was wrapped up early in training camp when Woodley signed a six-year, $61.5 million contract that included a $13 million signing bonus and a $4 million roster bonus. Another $17 million spent just like that and upped the post lockout check writing total to nearly $51 million.

Lawrence Timmons was the next big name on the Steelers to-do list and he was signed in late August to a 6-year, $50 million contract that included a $10 million signing bonus and another $1 million in form of a roster bonus. Add that $11 million to the $51 million already spent and the Steelers were up to around $62 million.

Lost in the timeline above were the re-signings of unrestricted free agents Greg Warren, Jonathan Scott, Shaun Suisham, William Gay, Chris Hoke, Mewelde Moore and Daniel Sepulveda. The Steelers also added free agents John Gilmore and Jerricho Cotchery and in total another $2.85 million was paid out in signing bonuses. Also not to be forgotten were the players that were due roster bonuses already under contract and that totaled nearly $7 million. Add all of this to the $62 million and the Steelers had spent roughly $71.85 million since the lockout ended and still had Polamalu on their want list.

While I do not have the complete figures yet on the new contract of Polamalu, it is believed to have included at least $10.5 million in a signing bonus and another million in the form of a roster bonus. Add that $11.5 million and the Steelers spent roughly $83.35 million since late July and managed to not only get roughly $4.4 million under the salary cap, but also mark off everything they needed to get done in the offseason. Amazing!!!

So where did the money come from? Well it is has not been kept a secret that the Steelers have added investors over the years when the ownership restructuring process began late in 2008. It should also not be a secret that the Steelers were noted as being worth $1.01 billion in the latest Forbes list and had a revenue of $255 million in 2011 that was up from $243 million in 2010. The Steelers had the cash flow and they used it. With new TV contract money on the way after the 2013 season, there figures to be even more money on the way.

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