Don’t Fret Over Steelers 2021 Salary Cap Status Following Recent Restructure Barrage

The 2020 NFL league year is not even two weeks old and already fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are worried about what the team’s salary cap situation will look like in 2021, and especially after the multiple contract restructures were performed the last few weeks. On the surface, it’s probably way too early to worry about what, if any, damage was done to the Steelers salary cap situation in 2021 and especially with us not yet knowing what the league-wide number will be with a new CBA in place.

For those of you who like to worry, and for the others who would just like a recap of what the Steelers did these past few weeks, below is a line-by-line breakdown of the six players recently restructured and how much the 2021 salary cap charge of each increased as a result. In total, $21,153,333 was kicked forward into 2021 as a result of the six recent contract restructures.

Restructured Player 2021 Cap Charge Increase
Ben Roethlisberger $9,750,000
Steven Nelson $3,670,000
Maurkice Pouncey $3,475,000
Joe Haden $2,975,000
Vance McDonald $800,000
Chris Boswell $483,333
Total $21,153,333

Currently, conservative estimates have the 2021 salary cap rising to $215 million from $198.2 million this season. Other more aggressive estimates have it rising to $240 million in 2021. That $25 million gap is quite a vast one. So, until we have a better idea as to what kind of percentage jump the NFL salary cap will make, it’s useless to speculate about the impact the recent restructures will have on the team’s outlook a little less from a year from now.

Worrying about the Steelers salary cap situation from year-to-year seems to be an extreme hobby for some. After all, declaring salary cap hell for the Steelers is annual analysis from a lot of the major media and several Steelers bloggers, most of whom have no idea how the process even works.

The Steelers have become masters at massaging the salary cap every offseason with most of that process coming in the form of restructures. Sure, a few of those restructures have come back to bite the team in the past and what happened several years ago with former outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is probably the best and most recent example of that. Even so, the team will continue to take calculated restructuring risks moving forward.

For those of you who still insist on being worried about the Steelers 2021 salary cap situation, do know that the team will likely have the ability to restructure a few more contracts by this same time next year should they deem it necessary. Should defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and outside linebacker Bud Dupree both sign contract extensions this offseason, both will jump to the front of the possible 2021 restructure line as both are sure to have sizable roster bonuses due next March.

Yes, this offseason was an extreme one for the Steelers when it came to contract restructures and mostly because of the team needing to make sure they could accommodate a franchise tag on Dupree and second-round restricted tenders on tackle Matt Feiler and cornerback Mike Hilton. Five of the six players who were restructured recently had March roster bonuses due as well so now was the time to do those just in case.

Should a new deal ultimately be worked out if with Dupree by July 15, his 2020 cap charge could decrease by roughly $4-$5 million. An extension for Heyward should also result in his 2020 salary cap charge decreasing roughly $3 million or so. A byproduct of those extensions will be two new added cap charges for the 2021 Steelers team.

A year from now we’re likely going to be discussing a contract extension for outside linebacker T.J. Watt and the team possibly having just placed the franchise tag on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, if he has a solid rebound season. Don’t worry, the Steelers will be able to afford new deals for both players even after signing Heyward and Dupree to lucrative deals this offseason, should that ultimately happen.

Something else to consider is the fact that exactly one year from now tight end Vance McDonald and inside linebacker Vince Williams might be former members of the team. Such contract terminations of those two players next March would clear over $8 million in 2021 salary cap space after roster displacement takes place.

After the dust clears from this offseason, we’ll take a closer look at the Steelers 2021 salary cap situation and hopefully we’ll have a better idea by then what the league-wide number will be. Until then, stop worrying about what, if any, damage was done this offseason by the restructures.

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