The 2019 NFL scouting combine wrapped up a few hours ago and that means Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and the rest of the members of the organization that went to Indianapolis are now likely returning back home to get ready for the start of the new league year. With a little more than a week to go before the start of the new league year, here’s a brief rundown of what should be expected from the Steelers in the coming week.
Roster cuts – Typically, the Steelers make a few roster cuts after returning back home from the annual scouting combine and there’s a good chance we see at least one prior to the start of this league year. Veteran safety Morgan Burnett could find himself unemployed by the end of this week and especially after he reportedly said over a month ago that he had asked the Steelers to release him after just one season in Pittsburgh. Burnett, as we have pointed out previously, is due a base salary of $5 million in 2019 in addition to a $50,000 workout bonus. Unless the Steelers believe they can trade Burnett and his salary in the coming weeks, there’s really no reason to keep him around much longer. While a lot less unlikely to get cut, tackle Marcus Gilbert is another player we’ll be watching the status of closely this next week. Additionally, should the Steelers decide at the last minute that they do not want outside linebacker Bud Dupree to have his fifth-year option become fully guaranteed at the start of the league year, they will need to cut him in the coming week. Despite several hoping for the Steelers to cut Dupree, I’ll be surprised if that happens.
Finish issuing of restricted and exclusive rights tenders – The Steelers restricted and exclusive free agent tenders are due soon. When it comes to restricted free agents, guard/center B.J. Finney is the only likely one to get tendered and probably at a right-of-first-refusal level. As for their exclusive rights free agents, a few have already been re-signed. Any others, such as cornerback Mike Hilton and tackle Matt Fieler, just to name a few, need to be officially tendered if they haven’t already been.
Finish Roethlisberger’s contract extension – The Steelers will likely announce that they’ve signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a contract extension by the end of this week or the start of next week. The two sides have reportedly been working on an extension for several weeks now and with the Roethlisberger due a $5 million roster bonus three days after the start of the new league year, it makes sense to have him signed, sealed and delivered before that date arrives. Additionally, a Roethlisberger extension should produce some salary cap savings in 2019 to the tune of around $7 million, depending on the structure, and that extra space won’t hurt entering the free agent signing period.
Finish contract restructures, if needed – The Steelers have been known to knock out a few contract restructures ahead of the start of new league years to free up additional salary cap space and these transactions are usually done with players who are due roster bonuses in March. Should the Steelers deem any contract restructures necessary in the coming week, defensive end Stephon Tuitt is the prime candidate for one as he’s due a $3 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the new league year. With the team being in a little better spot this year salary cap wise than they normally are, perhaps no restructures will be needed. However, don’t be surprised if Tuitt gets redone.
Get Antonio Brown trade worked out ASAP – Wide receiver Antonio Brown wants out of Pittsburgh sooner rather than later and hopefully the Steelers can accommodate his wishes before having to pay him the $2.5 million roster bonus he’s due on the fifth day of 2019 league year. I’m sure Colbert had plenty of trade conversations with other teams while in Indianapolis and by now he’s probably received a few offers. While the Steelers could obviously pay Brown his roster bonus and then work on getting better trade compensation up until the start of this year’s draft, it’s hard to imagine them getting a much better offer than they’ll likely have in hand come the start of the new league year.
Finish up free agent shopping list – It’s hard to say for sure how active the Steelers will be in free agency this year, but odds are good they will sign a few players within the first few weeks. While the team’s free agency plans were probably close to being finished before the organization left for the combine, these next few days is the time to wrap up any loose ends that might still exist and that includes monitoring some last minute cuts from around the league in addition to any players who might not be franchise tagged who were expected to be.
Try to re-sign a few of own unrestricted free agents last-minute – The Steelers would probably like to have guard Ramon Foster, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh and tight end Jesse James all back in 2019 if at all possible and for the right price. Those thee players, along with several others whose contracts are about to officially expire, will officially become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year if no last-minute contracts are agreed to. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers can get any of Foster, James and Sensabaugh re-signed in the coming week and a few days.