Steven Nelson’s release was the surprise of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason. A move I don’t think anyone predicted. And in his first interview since being cut by the team, Nelson explained his side of the story. He joined Movin’ The Chains with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on Sirius Radio to detail everything that’s gone down over the last month.
Nelson said after the season, he thought his play deserved an extension, securing him long-time in Pittsburgh while also potentially decreasing his 2021 cap number, giving the the cap-strapped Steelers’ some relief.
“What really happened was,” Nelson said, “I felt, and also my agent felt, we were due an extension due to the fact that I’ve outplayed my current contract with the past two years. Given where the current corner market is. So there were a lot of high cap numbers on the team going into the off season. Everybody can put two and two together. Somebody like myself, in my prime, would have thought, to help that situation, an extension would at least be at the front of the line for discussion. Clearly it didn’t go that way for whatever reason. The Steelers wanted to move a different way and thought I was expendable in my prime and via trade. So it was either it came down to me being traded or being released.”
Nelson was allowed to explore a trade on March 19th. After failing to find an adequate suitor and/or compensation, Nelson tweeted for the Steelers to cut him. They obliged on March 23rd.
Nelson said he was never offered the chance to take a paycut.
“And I just want to make it very clear to those out there who might not know, or assuming that there was never a discussion with me being able to take a pay cut. I was never even given that opportunity to take a pay cut. So it was either a trade or release.”
Releasing Nelson saved over $8 million in 2021 cap space. A critical number the Steelers determined they needed to round out the rest of their offseason signings and to have room for draft classes, practice squads, the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, along with in-season expenses. The Steelers have created cap space in several different ways from releasing starters like Nelson and Vince Williams to doing voidable year contracts with Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Sutton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Eric Ebron.
Since being cut, Nelson estimated ten to fifteen teams have reached out to his agent. But he remains a free agent unlike CBs Kyle Fuller and Adoree’ Jackson, who were quickly signed when their previous teams cut them. With the draft weeks away, it’s unclear what kind of market there will be for Nelson.
He made it clear he has no ill-will toward the Steelers and understood their decision was a business one. But he affirmed his belief he was a cap victim. Now, his focus shifts to finding his next home.
“For me, it’s just a patience thing. I’m not in a rush and I know what type of player I am and the value I bring to the team on and off the field. So I gotta take care of myself and protect myself and make the right decision.”
The Steelers figure to replace Nelson with Cam Sutton and potentially sophomore CB James Pierre. Pierre made the team as a UDFA last year, no small feat considering the lack of offseason, and passed up Justin Layne on the depth chart by season’s end.
You can listen to some of Nelson’s comments below.
— Steelers Depot 🧐 (@Steelersdepot) April 6, 2021