The Pittsburgh Steelers have a certain way of doing business that really doesn’t deviate from the path very often, though when it does, it can be pretty significant, like the Devin Bush trade up in 2019, or the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade later in the year. Generally, however, you can make pretty accurate predictions about how things will pan out simply by understanding their tendencies.
One of their tendencies is keeping the guys that they like for as long as they can manage it, particularly those who already have a high salary. The Steelers don’t let a lot of significant players go, especially ones who are already beyond their rookie contract, when they can help it, and generally, these guys get extended before their deal is up.
Just look at Cameron Heyward and Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt and Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger and David DeCastro. Unless they are fairly certain they won’t be able to re-sign a guy (i.e. Alejandro Villanueva) or are uncertain about his play (i.e. Bud Dupree), it’s rare for such players to even play out a deal before being extended.
And as with Haden, it doesn’t just apply to their own draft picks. If they bring a player in and he becomes a part of the culture and performs on the field, it’s almost as if he’s always been there, and that’s how he gets treated. Steven Nelson could be the next one.
We already talked just yesterday about how the six-year veteran, currently entering the final year of a three-year, $25.5 million deal that he signed in free agency in 2019, could be a candidate for an extension later on this season. In speaking with Missi Matthews, he let it be known that that’s what he’s hoping for.
“I’m going into my last year on my contract”, he told Matthews, when he was asked about how much he will pay attention to the Steelers’ free agency movements, with so many of his teammates’ contracts expiring next month. “I’ve had a great time here in Pittsburgh, and I just want to throw that out there. Hopefully I can be here so we can win some Lombardi trophies”.
For reasons that I would hope are obvious, it’s much easier to get a contract extension done with a player who already has a high salary. Nelson is on the books for a cap hit of $14,4200,00, which is elevated because of a previous restructure, but he still has a base salary of $8,250,000.
Any deal that the team might look to do with him would almost surely involve turning as much of that base salary as they can into a signing bonus, which would enable them to spread the cap hit around, leaving him with a veteran-minimum salary on the books, yet having been paid in full, on top of whatever new money he would receive in guarantees.