It’s been quite the offseason so far for the Pittsburgh Steelers and we still have a little less than two weeks to go before the 2021 NFL league year officially gets underway, when all 32 teams will need to be salary cap compliant. As of the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger getting reworked on Thursday, the Steelers are now under the salary cap. Since January 22, the Steelers managed to trim $34,288,750 in 2021 salary cap space and all it took was for four things to happen. Below is chronological list of those four major cap-cutting events that have taken place and the specifics related to each.
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January 22, 2021 – TE Vance McDonald retirement – McDonald decided to retire this offseason with one year still remaining on his contract. McDonald was scheduled to earn $5.2 million in 2021 and after Top 51 roster displacement took place, the Steelers officially cleared $4.54 million in 2021 salary cap space. It is worth noting that McDonald’s retirement also produced a dead money money hit of $2.7275 million for the Steelers in 2021.
February 12, 2021 – C Maurkice Pouncey retirement – A few weeks after McDonald announced that he was retiring, Pouncey made his announcement that he was following suit with one-year still remaining on his contract. Pouncey was scheduled to earn $8 million in 2021 and after Top 51 roster displacement took place, the Steelers officially cleared $7.34 million in 2021 salary cap space. It is worth noting that Pouncey’s retirement also produced a dead money money hit of $6.475 million for the Steelers in 2021.
February 22, 2021 – DT Cameron Heyward restructure – 10 days after Pouncey announced his retirement, we got official word that Heyward had restructured his big contract that he had signed just prior to the start of the 2020 regular season. That restructure was a full one and was expected. Heyward had his entire $6 million roster bonus he was due on March 20, along with all but $1.075 million of the $4.5 million base salary he was due in 2020, turned into a signing bonus. Turning that money into a signing bonus allowed for $9.425 million that Heyward is due in 2021 to be spread out over the final four years of his contract. Heyward’s cap charges in 2022, 2023 and 2024 all increased by $2,356,250 as a result of the restructure but his 2021 cap charge did decrease by $7,068,750.
March 4, 2021 – QB Ben Roethlisberger extension/rework – On Thursday, the Steelers announced that Roethlisberger had been signed to a new contract and that was expected to happen. Roethlisberger was previously set to be in the final year of his old contract and earn $19 million in 2021 with $15 million of that being a March roster bonus. Roethlisberger agreed to take a $5 million pay cut in 2021 to help the Steelers out so he’ll now earn $14 million in 2021. As part of his contract rework, four voidable years were added to Roethlisberger’s deal and $12.925 million of the $14 million he’s now scheduled to earn was turned into a signing bonus to be prorated for cap accounting purposes over the five total years. Roethlisberger’s contract rework resulted in his 2021 cap charge dropping $15.34 million in total. The Roethlisberger contract reworking, however, pushed $10.34 million into future years as potential dead money.
The result of these four cap-cutting moves I recapped above now have the Steelers roughly $3.1 million under a salary cap number of $180 million. We should know the NFL official salary cap number for the 2021 season within the next 10 days. The Steelers will also likely clear even more salary cap space in the next 10 days as well via at least one more contract restructure and a possible contract termination. A contract extension or two, while probably unlikely to happen this early in the offseason, isn’t totally out of the question, either.