Buy Or Sell: Steelers Will Have To Compromise On Contract Structure To Navigate 2021 Cap

Kevin Colbert

The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.

That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.

Topic Statement: The Steelers will have to resort of structuring contracts in ways they’re not comfortable with in order to navigate the current salary cap crunch with the least amount off collateral damage.

Explanation: More than pretty much any other organization, the Steelers have a certain way of conducting business that they do their best to stick to, especially when it comes to how they structure their contracts, with few exceptions. With a $15 million-plus reduction in the cap, however, they may have to be more creative than they’d like to be this year.


This will be pretty much a given when it comes to working to restructure Ben Roethlisberger’s contract. They do work with void years, but they likely will here in order to get him back for one more season while being able to spread his cap hit out over multiple years.

If they have any aspirations of re-signing any of their notable free agents, or even bringing in somebody from the outside, they may have to offer more enticing deals, or opportunities to earn more, for example, through incentive-based earnings, which they don’t do. The only contract I can think of that had incentives was Vance McDonald’s, which they inherited from the 49ers.


The Steelers don’t have to do void years in order to extend Roethlisberger. As long as they don’t offer any new guaranteed money, it functionally works the same to simply give him a traditional extension with genuine salaries for the added years, which would be in place in the event that he actually plays beyond 2021.

They aren’t even in the position to re-sign anybody who is going to be in such a high commodity that they would have to be wooed by creative accounting, so that’s not an issue. The only change I could really see happening is offering a higher percentage of guaranteed money upfront, something they already started with Joe Haden’s extension. But even Cameron Heyward only got about 30 percent of his contract guaranteed (compared to Haden’s 76 percent).

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