2021 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Use Void Years On Other Deals This Offseason?

Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers use void years on other contracts signed or renegotiated this offseason?

The Pittsburgh Steelers, like many teams this offseason, have found themselves pressed up against the salary cap wall, in large part due to the significant revenue shortfall stemming from the pandemic that resulted in the cap decreasing by more than $15 million, rather than typically increasing by about $10 million.

As a result, we are seeing teams, including the Steelers, do things with their contracts that they might not ordinarily do. The accounting trick that has been most common so far has been the use of voidable years entered into contracts, extra years which prior to being reached the contract will void, but which allows a team to spread out a signing bonus burden over a period of additional years.

Pittsburgh did this with Ben Roethlisberger’s contract, and in doing so helped to shave off more than $15 million in salary cap space, adding four void years to his final remaining deal while converting all but the minimum of his due compensation—after a $5 million pay cut—into a signing bonus.

But could we see the team use this on other deals signed this year? For example, if they were to sign a veteran starting center, might they sign him to a two-year deal not dissimilar to the ones they’ve given out to Mark Barron and Eric Ebron in the past two years, but with three void years on top of it?

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