Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a tough spot as far as the salary cap is concerned. Even in light of the news that the salary cap floor has been raised from $175 million to $180 million, with the possibility that it could still come in higher, the front office will still have its hands full making enough cap room to allow them to conduct the full plate of offseason business.
As you might expect, general manager Kevin Colbert told reporters earlier this week that their approach is pretty much to assume the worst unless and until they hear differently. While his remarks were made prior to yesterday’s news that the cap floor was being raised, that only moves the needle a relatively small way.
When asked about their cap situation and what tools they might have available to keep around some of their high-profile free agents, Colbert unsurprisingly offered, “I would say it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to use a tag”. They used the franchise tag on Bud Dupree in 2020. Of course, they tried to use it on Le’Veon Bell in 2018, and that didn’t exactly work out, after having previously applied it on him the year before.
“When we say we don’t know what the cap is, what we always try to do is prepare for the worst situation”, Colbert said. “Right now, we know the cap, can’t go below $175 million based on the CBA [since raised to $180 million]. So we’ll always work in that mindset, and we’ll play different scenarios and put together different scenarios in the event that is what we’re dealing with”.
“We’ll try to guesstimate on what a certain player may cost us, be it our own player, or be at someone else”, he continued. “We’ll always weigh that and measure that against what might be available to us in a draft. As I said, if a position in the draft is very strong and you feel good about being able to get a player in the draft that might take you away from signing a free agent or extending your own free agents. I hate to keep saying that, but it’s the truth, that we have to continually monitor this and work at it every day, because it does change actually daily”.
We have, of course, just seen how the landscape can change daily, and that includes major release and trade news. Carson Wentz just moved from the NFC East to the AFC South yesterday. The cap floor was raised on the same day. J.J. Watt was released earlier this month. The list goes on.
Between now and the start of the new league year, the most significant cap-related event will take place behind closed doors, with the NFL attempting to hammer now new long-term broadcasting arrangements with their partners. Substantial increases in revenue through this medium would be directly reflected in the cap number, and it would also enable them to go ahead with the expansion of the regular season to 17 games.