The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
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: What will the salary cap situation of 2022 look like, and how much do the Steelers (and other teams) need to be taking that into consideration right now?
One of the worst offenses that we made last year was assuming that ‘things would be better’ later on in the year. That Covid-19 would be taken care of, at least largely, and that we would be able to return to some semblance of normalcy. That was the NFL’s thinking regarding the 2020 season for most of the offseason, until it became undeniably obvious that that would not be the case.
While that lack of foresight didn’t have any effect on what the 2021 salary cap will end up looking like—the NFL and NFLPA ultimately agreed to a $175 million floor, but a final number is yet to be determined—the reality is that the financial ramifications of the pandemic will have a multi-year impact on the game.
But what if the pandemic is still unmercifully present in time for the 2021 season, to the point where there are still attendance restrictions for games and things of that nature that continue to affect the NFL’s ability to generate revenue?
How concerned should the league, and individual teams, be that the salary cap realities of 2021 will still be there in 2022? Can we be looking at multiple years of a cap around $180 million or so?