Steelers 2023 Salary Cap Primer Series: Part 1 – Current Estimated Rule Of 51 Snapshot

The Pittsburgh Steelers had their 2022 season come to an end on Sunday and since then, the team has signed 14 players to Reserve/Future contracts. Those signings now give us an initial working Rule of 51 for 2023 to look at.

As of now, the Steelers technically have 53 players under contract for the 2023 season. Of those 53 players, cornerback Cameron Sutton and guard Jesse Davis are both under contract as well, but both will have their deals void right after the Super Bowl. For practical purposes, both players are not being viewed as under contract for 2023 in this post. Sutton, however, will be viewed as a dead money addition in this post due to his contract being set to void.

So, we are left with 51 players following the exclusion of Sutton and Davis and that’s perfect for an initial Rule of 51 to work off of. Below are those 51 players as of Wednesday night along with their projected 2023 salary cap charges. Additionally, below is a list of the current projected dead money charges the team has, and once again, that includes Sutton.

The Steelers’ current list of 51 players that we are working with for 2023 as part of our initial Rule of 51 have cap charges that total up to be $220,381,113. Additionally, the Steelers have $8,028,814 in estimated dead money charges for 2023 as of today, and once again, that includes Sutton. In total, the Steelers have $228,409,927 in estimated 2023 salary cap charges at the time of this post.

Next, I wanted to highlight the charges of outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and guard Kevin Dotson. Both are expected to receive Proven Performance Escalator increases in 2023 and I have already written about that during the 2022 season. The numbers below include the projected increases in pay for both players. Once again, much like the situations with Sutton and Davis not being included in this Rule of 51, I try to keep it as real as possible and especially with forthcoming changes that are inevitable.

Here are the two tables of 51 contracts and the dead money:

Currently, NFL industry experts are expecting the NFL to have a 2023 salary cap of $225 million. That number, however, will not be finalized for several more weeks. Even so, I am using the $225 million as the expectation for right now until I have a reason to use a different number.

The Steelers, according to a Thursday morning report, are now expected to rollover $4,427,145 in unused 2022 salary cap space to 2023. If that holds true, the team will have an adjusted team salary cap number in 2023 of $229,427,145.

The NFL is also expected to implement an offseason workout bonus placeholder amount of $849,600 in the coming weeks and that’s a standard operation based on the current CBA. That estimated placeholder is also accounted for in this initial 2023 salary cap outlook for the Steelers.

Based on all of the projected totals I have outlined above; the Steelers are an estimated $167,618 UNDER the cap for 2023 as we sit here on this Thursday when it comes to their initial Rule of 51. While that number might shock a lot of you, it is as close of a real-time projection as you will find right now.

Below is a breakdown of where the Steelers currently sit cap space-wise, what most of the projected future salary cap expenses might look like and a quick look at ways the team can free up additional salary cap space via contract restructures of three players.

So, what do the Steelers need to do in the coming weeks to not only get under the cap but also have room to avoid some internal and external free agents? I will answer such questions for you in my next post on the 2023 salary situation the team has. I can tell you that cutting cornerback William Jackson III will instantly create $12.75 million in salary cap space, pending top 51 roster displacement. That’s a chunk of cap space and would instantly get the team well under the cap ahead of the start of the new league year in March.

So, stay tuned for my next post in this series which should be published in the coming days. For now, however, know that the Steelers are technically an estimated $167,618 UNDER the cap for 2023 as we sit here on this Thursday.

Special thanks to Joel Corry for data contributions made to me that were used in this post. Follow him on Twitter at @corryjoel.

{UPDATE} I needed to update the Alex Highsmith PPE projected salary as I carried over a wrong number from a spreadsheet. The result now has the Steelers slightly UNDER the cap instead of slightly OVER it.

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