Before any additional predictable expenses are considered, the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently projected to have in the ballpark of $29 million in salary cap space. That might sound like a lot, and it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, but the value of a cap dollar lowers every year with rising salaries.
Still, that’s a far cry from where the Steelers were around this time last year, which was about $15 million or so over the cap, depending on where you want to pick up the timeline.
“Usually, instead of having to cut people or redo people just to create cap room to be competitive”, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told SiriusXM radio on Tuesday, comparing their current cap situation to those in years past, “we don’t have to start that way”.
While they ‘benefited’ last year from the retirements of Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey, which saved them about a combined $11 million or so, they also added another $6 million-plus in cap savings by restructuring Cameron Heyward’s contract, and then they coupled a salary reduction with a restructure adding void years to Ben Roethlisberger’s contract, which finally got them out of the red and gave them some temporary breathing room.
Of course, they still had to make more moves to accommodate all of the future expenses, which was aided by the release of David DeCastro later in the offseason. They also would release Steven Nelson much earlier on, and they had no opportunity to even consider re-signing a number of their most significant free agents at the time.
That won’t be the case this year, thanks to their added flexibility, and Colbert and the front office understand that they have the tools at their disposal—the same tools they have been using year after year—to create more room depending on what they want to accomplish this offseason.
“Could we continue to do it as it unfolds?”, he asked somewhat rhetorically, referring to the possibility of making some cap-based roster cuts and further restructuring contracts to create more cap room; “Absolutely. But right now, we could go on into the market and sign folks without having to have any subtractions first”.
The two clear-cut candidates for possible release are inside linebacker Joe Schobert, who would offer roughly $7 million in post-displacement cap relief, and tackle Zach Banner, who would open up more than $4 million in additional cap space after playing all of five offensive snaps in 2021.
As has been discussed on this site, another move surely on the horizon is a potential additional restructure of Heyward’s contract, as it includes a roster bonus of $4.5 million due March 20. If they rework his contract before then, they can turn that into a signing bonus and spread out the cap hit over the next three years—or up to two more, if they were to add void years, which there’s no reason they should at the moment.