The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to kick off the regular season tomorrow night in Foxboro against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, so you know what that means.
Time is running out on the chance of the Steelers working out an extension with left tackle Kelvin Beachum, or anybody else, for that matter.
Not that there isn’t still time. A few years back, the Steelers managed to complete a contract extension with safety Troy Polamalu on the plane ride over to their opening game. But that is cutting it as close as you can get with the team, which has a long-standing policy of not negotiating contracts during the season.
Of course, the Steelers have already taken care of some vital needs this offseason, working out long-term new deals with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive end Cameron Heyward, who players who are unquestionably leaders of the team—as evidenced by the fact that both were named team captains.
But, at least in a 2015 sense, those contracts were a bit easier to get done. Both Roethlisberger and Heyward were former first-round draft picks, and were already scheduled to be on the books for high-dollar salaries.
That is not the case for Beachum, entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract after being selected in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft is a virtual afterthought. The undersized tackle has decidedly outplayed his contract since then, earning league-mandated performance bonus escalators.
He will seriously escalate his salary if the Steelers are able to work out a new long-term extension with their potential franchise left tackle in the next day and a half or so, jumping up from a base salary of a little over $1.5 million to upwards of six times that amount in average annual salary.
Of course, the contract can be structured in such a way, as the front office always does, that creates comparatively low cap hits early in the contract that keeps it flexible to restructuring and extensions as needed for cap or performance purposes as the life of the deal progresses.
The Steelers have over the past week or so restructured a number of additional contracts in order to create millions in cap space, a move not predicted earlier in the offseason based on their fairly modest restructuring back in March.
That was largely out of necessity, however, and should not necessarily be read in the sense of interpreting an impending contract extension being announced. The Steelers have had the misfortune of experiencing a number of injuries this preseason that now has millions tied up on injured reserve and in the replacements for those injured players.
While the clock continues to tick closer to the midnight hour with respect to the team’s designated negotiating period, there is still time for Beachum and Pittsburgh to work out a new contract that keeps him with the team long-term. It would be a key signing considering where the team might be in 2016 should they lose him in free agency. The time draws near.