The Pittsburgh Steelers experienced a bit of a freefall in recent weeks before finding the rip chord for their parachute in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts. They had lost the previous three games up to that point, and found themselves trailing by 17 in the early stages of the second half, before coming back by scoring 21 unanswered points and thereby securing the AFC North title.
Onlookers, nevertheless, remain mixed as to what it all means. They are still a 12-win team, but they haven’t been playing their best football for more than a quarter of the season now. You want to go into the postseason playing at a high level, and they are doing anything but that.
The comeback against a good Colts team was, at least for ESPN, enough to restore them back into the top five in their power rankings, having fallen all the way outside the top 10 previously. That all means little at this point, of course, but the article also includes a ‘new year’s resolution for each team. For the Steelers, that resolution was restructuring big-money contracts. Brooke Pryor writes:
NFL teams, they’re just like us. We both have to deal with budgeting — especially to start a new year. The Steelers are going to be in that boat, as contracts including those of Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, Joe Haden and Steven Nelson eat up big chunks of the cap, making it nearly impossible to re-sign most of the 19 impending unrestricted free agents — and that doesn’t include giving OLB T.J. Watt a well-earned megadeal. The Steelers need to work some magic in the checkbook to field a team that even loosely resembles the one that started 11-0 this year, otherwise they’ll be starting from close to scratch with a 39-year-old quarterback.
Of course, it won’t just be restructuring contracts. They will be looking to extend the contracts of these players who are entering the final year of their deal, and that also includes the likes of Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Vince Williams, among others, such as Eric Ebron, a newcomer.
Heyward’s contract is obviously one that will be restructured. He has a $6 million roster bonus due that would be rolled over into a signing bonus to spread that cap hit out over the life of the deal, in addition to a $4.5 million base salary.
Roethlisberger is the big-ticket item, as goes without saying, with his hefty $15 million roster bonus. Of course, you have to add a year or two to his deal to make any room, and they will have to figure out what the price tag is on that.