The Pittsburgh Steelers still have plenty of work to do between now and the start of the new league year not only to get compliant with the salary cap, wherever the final number ends up falling, but also creating cap space that will allow them to conduct their business.
The announced retirements of center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Vance McDonald helped them clear a significant chunk of cap space. More recently, they restructured the contract of defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who just signed a long extension last year, and the wheels were put in motion to get Ben Roethlisberger’s cap hit under control.
What we don’t yet know is whether or not the Steelers will have to release any players, and part of the reason for that, beyond not knowing what the cap number will be, is because we don’t know what they might be planning on doing in terms of working on retaining their own free agents, and possibly signing others.
If there is one player who is a prime candidate to be released, however, the beat writers continue to think that veteran inside linebacker is it. His name came up once again in Ray Fittipaldo’s chat yesterday for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, first in a question about the future of the inside linebacker position:
Tahleenee: How big of a need do you see finding a future ILB to play next to Bush? VW is nearing the end, Spillane played decently, Gilbert can’t stay healthy.
Ray Fittipaldo: Given the many other needs on this roster I would not be surprised if Spillane starts next to Bush and they add an ILB somewhere in the middle or later rounds of the draft.
Robert Spillane played close to 400 snaps last season on defense, almost all of it coming after Devin Bush’s knee injury, but he also missed four games himself due to injury, which obviously took a chunk of snaps away. But overall, he represented himself well, and would certainly be a cheaper option to start next to Bush.
In a later section of the chat, Fittipaldo was given a list of five players and asked to name the one most likely to be on the team in 2021: four of them were pending free agents, and the other was Williams, who is under contract for this season.
Watt?: Most likely to be on the team next year: Haden, Hilton, Sutton, Vince, Alualu?
Ray Fittipaldo: Tough question, but I guess I’ll say Alualu. Could be any of those guys though.
He didn’t pick Williams. He thinks it’s more likely that the Steelers re-sign Tyson Alualu than it is that they do not release the veteran linebacker. I think that says all that needs to be said about how Fittipaldo feels about Williams’ chances of sticking around. Of course, that doesn’t say much about the actual likelihood of him sticking around, but there is a reasonable chance that he is a salary cap casualty.