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My Response To Bill Barnwell’s Annual Slamming Of The Steelers

You know the drill at this time of year, right? The Pittsburgh Steelers get eliminated from the playoffs and one-by-one the major media experts hacks write about how poorly the organization manages their salary cap.

The year, Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com is the first one to nationally take a swing at the Steelers perceived cap mismanagement and sadly most who read his article will take it as the gospel truth. Let’s have a look at a few things Barnwell had to say, shall we?

Barnwell on Lawrence Timmons:

It’s the Timmons deal that signifies how Pittsburgh mismanages its cap. While Timmons is an above-average inside linebacker, the Steelers have been forced to restructure his contract twice in three years to create much-needed cap space. Now, in the final year of the 29-year-old Timmons’s contract, they’re stuck. His $15.1 million cap hit is the highest for any inside linebacker in football by a comfortable margin, and it doesn’t reflect his production. The Steelers can give Timmons an extension, but that’ll be a deal negotiated with Timmons possessing all the leverage and kick the problem down the line, which is the exact sort of deal you don’t want to do.

Yes, Lawrence Timmons’ 2016 cap charge is scheduled to be $15,131,250 with only $8.75 million of it being his base salary. However, even though I doubt it happens, if Timmons is cut outright before June 1, the team will clear $8.75 million in cap space. How many of you think Timmons will find a team willing to pay him $8.75 million in 2016? In other words, Timmons would be wise to sign a two or three-year extension with no new guaranteed money involved. Such a move would not only result in Timmons getting that full $8.75 million in 2016, it will also allow him to finish his career in Pittsburgh with adequate yearly salaries in future years. Such an extension would also lower Timmons’ 2016 cap charge and assuming he stays healthy and productive; it will be a good deal for both sides. He’s about to turn 30, not 40 and on top of that, the last time he missed a game was in 2010. Leverage, Bill? Yeah, right.

On Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger restructures:

They’ve already had to restructure the Pouncey contract, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them restructure Roethlisberger’s deal while the ink is still drying to clear out more space.

Oh, the sins of having a franchise quarterback making a lot of money. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger will indeed have his contract restructured during the offseason as that’s the price teams have to pay in order to retain other top players on their roster. Will the Steelers eventually eat a large chunk of dead money with Roethlisberger? It’s possible, but they are gambling he’ll make it through the final year of his current contract, which is 2019. Will the Steelers need to restructure Maurkice Pouncey again this year? It’s possible, but if they do, it will only be after they restructure the contract of defensive end Cameron Heyward. Why choose him over Pouncey? He has the newest deal and is younger.

What else did Barnwell say about those restructures?

That’s a necessity, because the Steelers are losing all kinds of contributors and have just $10 million in cap space before re-signing any of them. No fewer than six starters are hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, and Pittsburgh can’t afford to lose them all. That includes three members of that secondary in Blake, Gay and Will Allen; they aren’t exactly stars by any means, but the only players in line to replace them are Cortez Allen and rookie second-rounder Senquez Golson, who combined to play one game in 2015 thanks to injuries.

Wait, so Bill said the Steelers can’t afford to lose Will Allen and Antwon Blake? Did I read that correctly? Bill must not have watched many Steelers games this season. Besides, if the Steelers want Allen and Blake back in 2016, they can likely have them back on one-year veteran contracts for the veteran minimum that come with… wait for it… “reduced cap charges”, thanks to the minimum salary benefit in the CBA. I wonder if Bill has even read the CBA. Sure, they need William Gay back and I’m willing to bet that happens via a VERY favorable deal that will be good for both sides. According to Barnwell, I guess Cortez Allen and Senquez Golson should both be sued because they were injured. Of course the Steelers are hoping both can contribute heavily in 2016, Bill. Do you think they are happy both missed the entire season? Why do you think they were forced to trade for Brandon Boykin?

Let’s continue on with Barnwell’s wacky article as it relates to soon-to-be unrestricted free agents Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Brandon Boykin, Steve McLendon, Will Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Vick.

More distressingly, it includes a pair of starters along the offensive line in Beachum and Ramon Foster. The offensive line was a dominant asset for Pittsburgh in 2014; losing its left side with no heir apparent at either position would be a critical blow. In a way, the Steelers might have gotten lucky that Beachum tore his ACL this year, if only because it might reduce his market value as he hits free agency and make it possible for the Steelers to re-sign their 2012 seventh-round pick. Nose tackle Steve McLendon rounds out the group, and that’s without thinking about Boykin, fullback Will Johnson, or either of their veteran backup quarterbacks.

No heir apparent for Beachum, Bill? Look, Alejandro Villanueva was certainly not a Pro Bowler this year, but he sure got better as the season wore on. The Steelers won with him, right? They made it the Divisional Round with him, right? Look, nobody is going to confuse Villanueva with Joe Thomas, but he certainly is capable of playing left tackle in the NFL and you know what, Bill, he’s super cheap the next two seasons. You like cheap, right? As for Foster, sure the Steelers want him back and so do most fans. However, he is already 30 years of age and not the most mobile of big guys. Isn’t that what a draft is for, Bill? You know, replacing older players? McLendon? I bet he’s back on cap friendly deal as well. I’m not even going to address Johnson, Gradkowski and Vick in depth. If the Steelers want any of the three back in 2016 they can get them on one-year qualifying contracts with REDUCED CAP CHARGES. Hey, Bill, do you know who Roosevelt Nix is?

More from Barwell:

The Steelers also need to prepare extensions for Bell and DeCastro, each of whom would become unrestricted free agents in 2017, and start working on a mammoth deal for Brown, who would hit the market in 2018.

Oh, the horror. They “need to prepare extensions” for Le’Veon Bell and David DeCastro, two great players they drafted. A DeCastro extension will clear cap space that can be used to extend Bell. Gee, that’s a tough problem to have. As for Brown, general manager Kevin Colbert is already on record as saying Brown shouldn’t expect an extension until 2017. So what will he do, Bill? Likely pay Brown forward just as he did last offseason. What will happen after that? Probably an extension that winds up lowering Brown’s 2017 cap charge just a tad.

One final Barnwell tidbit:

They can save $4 million by cutting Heath Miller, $1.8 million by releasing Shaun Suisham and $4.4 million by designating Cortez Allen as a post-June 1 release. That also leaves them without starters at three positions.

Yeah, Bill, I doubt Heath Miller will be cut. As for Shaun Suisham, I guess Barnwell missed what Chris Boswell did this season. Also, cutting Suisham post June 1 clears $2.4 million in 2016. As for Cortez, expect him to be in camp fighting to retain his starting job. If he fails to do so, he will likely be cut post June 1. Let’s not throw that baby out with the bath water just yet, Bill.

In closing, the goal of the Steelers ever year is to win the Super Bowl. Since Colbert took over as general manager in 2000, the organization has been to three Super Bowls and they won two of them. Only once since Colbert took over have the Steelers finished a season with a losing record. Only 6 times in the last 15 seasons have the Steelers failed to make the playoffs. This past season they made the playoffs a second consecutive year despite them being accused of mismanaging their salary cap for the umpteenth time by experts such as Barnwell.

When it comes to bashing the Steelers, perhaps Barnwell should leave that task to us lowly basement blahgers as we obviously know more about the organization than he does.

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