The Pittsburgh Steelers have exactly five players on their offseason roster whose release would save them at least $2 million in salary cap space after Rule of 51 roster displacement. Those five players, in ascending order of savings, are Mason Rudolph, Chris Boswell, Stephon Tuitt, Zach Banner, and Joe Schobert.
Of the five, the first three are unrealistic cut candidates, at least as of this time, though Tuitt’s situation is up in the air, and comments from the organization seem to paint a pretty clear picture of a guy who is considering retirement. As Ali Marpet, a 28-year-old Pro Bowl guard, reminded us yesterday, there’s never an age too young to retire once you have money, no matter how much you might leave on the table.
That leaves Banner and Schobert. Banner is due $5 million in base salary in 2022 and has one game of starting experience, even though he has entered the past two offseasons protected to start at right tackle. The biggest thing going for him right now is the fact that Chukwuma Okorafor is a free agent.
The Steelers though, at least in theory, have two other starting inside linebackers in Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, and with Schobert, all of them were seeing somewhat even playing time by the end of the season anyway. You’re not going to pay Schobert $8.75 million in base salary to split time, so it’s no surprise we have many outlets speculating about his future in Pittsburgh.
We’ve had a couple of examples of that recently, with Pro Football Focus recently putting together an article highlighting the primary roster cut candidate for each team, with Schobert obviously being the choice for the Steelers:
The Steelers traded for Schobert ahead of the 2021 season in their final push with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the Jaguars agreed to retain $3.65 million of Schobert’s 2021 salary to facilitate the deal. Schobert’s salary jumps to $8.75 million in 2022, and he’s coming off a second consecutive season earning a grade below 55.0. With that said, Devin Bush has not developed into the player the Steelers hoped for when they traded up to draft him at No. 10 overall in 2019, so maybe Schobert can find a way to stick around.
Elsewhere, Cynthia Freuland wrote an article regarding high-priced players around the league who are wearing cap hits at the moment that they likely won’t be come September, and speculating on how the teams who house those players would handle their situation. Schobert was on that list, as well:
The Steelers are flush with cap space, but they have a major question mark at quarterback, the game’s most important and expensive position. Pro Football Focus just gave Schobert the worst grade of his career in 2021, so nearly $10 million is a big price tag.
Even though Pittsburgh is slated to have $28,749,228 in projected salary cap space for the moment, that total will quickly be eaten into, bite by bite, with every notable move, such as giving Dwayne Haskins a restricted free agent tender, and any free agents they might re-sign by the time the new year starts.
Then you have the 52nd and 53rd roster spots, the 2022 NFL Draft class, the practice squad, and other predictable expenditures, such as inevitable Reserve/Injured stints. This came up just yesterday when I wrote about cornerback DeMarkus Acy.
He accounted for $660,000 against their cap last season even though he’s never spent a second of his life on a practice squad. But because he tore his ACL in training camp, the Steelers had to cover him. He spent the year on the Reserve/Injured List.
The bottom line is you need to account for expenses like that, which are inevitably going to arise, and their costs rise every year. The Steelers like to carry $10-12 million in space into the season now due to rising expenditures, including the rise of minimum salaries and the expansion of the practice squad.
In other words, don’t fool yourself into thinking $30 million is all the Steelers will need to have a busy offseason. If they mean business, they’re probably going to look to create more cap space, which is not good news for Schobert, chief amongst all.