Whatever the Pittsburgh Steelers’ plans are for correcting the issues that ail the team at all levels, it all begins with one simple thing, which is the case on an annual basis: becoming cap-compliant, and figuring out ways to navigate the minutiae of the salary cap while retaining a competitive roster.
Outside of the year that Le’Veon Bell opted not to play and chose to forego his significant earnings via the franchise tag, the Steelers have had to do work every offseason for the past decade just to get compliant with the salary cap, meaning that they entered the process over the cap.
This year is no different, and the reality is that there is unique uncertainty pertaining to where that number is, because of the significant revenue that the NFL lost due to the pandemic. There has been rampant speculation about where the salary cap number will fall this year, but the rosiest scenarios have it remaining flat, when it has typically risen by about $10 million or so per year.
“There’s just so many meetings ahead of us, discussions that are ahead of us in regards to those things, the salary cap ramifications and the things that we can do to get within compliance there”, head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier today.
“There’s just a lot of work ahead, but that’s not unusual. Maybe there are some unusual specific challenges, but just in general, it is challenging, the depth of it is challenging, and so there’s a lot of work ahead”.
The Steelers already have more than $200 million committed against the cap for 2021, which is more than where the cap number is projected to be, and could be as low as just $175 million, which would be a regression of several years. This is a consequence of the financial hit every team and the league as a whole has taken reckoning with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It has and will present some unique challenges for us, but I’d imagine it’s going to present similar challenges for all of us across the global landscape”, Tomlin said in that regard. “We’ll be given a fair opportunity to pivot and to deal with those ramifications”.
Among the chief questions is identifying who could be targeted for potential cap savings, and through what means, whether it’s an extension, a restructure, or a release. Ben Roethlisberger, for example, could be extended. Cameron Heyward will inevitably be restructured. Somebody like Vance McDonald will be vulnerable to release, due $5.2 million in base salary as the team’s number two tight end.