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2020 Offseason Questions: How Hard Will 2021 Salary Cap Be Hit By Revenue Shortfalls This Season?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How hard will the 2021 salary cap be hit by the economic shortfalls of the 2020 season?

It was announced late last week that the NFL and NFLPA agreed to terms on an economic proposal regarding the process of addressing the economic shortfalls all parties anticipate suffering in light of the loss of revenue due to Covid-19.

Part of the agreement was that the 2021 salary cap figure would be given a floor of $175 million—in other words, teams would have at least that much in salary cap to spend. Should the economic math of the 2020 season prove to be better than currently anticipated, the figure could come in higher.

For perspective, the 2020 salary cap is not far from $200 million. A salary cap of $175 is more reflective of the 2018 season, when it came in at $177.2 million for the year. This anticipates roughly a three-year setback in the annual growth of the game.

The Steelers already have more than $175 million committed against the 2021 salary cap, so…that’s not great. And that does not include a likely extension for Cameron Heyward, for example, because his contract only runs through the 2020 season.

As do the contracts of others like JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva, Zach Banner, and Mike Hilton, by the way. Plus Cameron Sutton, for good measure, and Chris Wormley while we’re at it. And Tyson Alualu. And others.

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