The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly acquired veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson via a trade with the Los Angeles Rams and that deal is expected to be made official soon. Reports indicate that the Steelers will carry $5 million of the $10 million base salary that Robinson is due in 2023 as part of the trade. While the acquisition of Robinson has yet to be made official by the NFL, NFLPA and the Steelers as of Thursday morning, we’ll take the early reports as gospel and provide a salary cap update pending any unforeseen changes.
With Robinson set to have a $5 million cap charge with the Steelers, he will enter the Rule of 51 and displace a salary of $940,000. This means that the acquisition of Robinson should use just $4.06 million of available 2023 salary cap space after roster displacement occurs. This should then put the Steelers $5,286,819 under the cap with their Rule of 51 and with 70 total players under contract for 2023.
As of Thursday morning, the NFLPA salary cap page shows the Steelers $10,196,419 under the cap. That amount, however, does not account for the Steelers acquisition of Robinson. It also does not yet account for the annual workout bonus placeholder, which is scheduled to be $849,600. Usually, we see the NFLPA account for the workout bonus placeholder prior to the annual NFL Draft so I’m not sure what the delay is this year. Regardless, trust me, it’s coming.
Being $5,286,819 under the cap with a week to go until the 2023 NFL Draft still gives the Steelers some flexibility to add a few more free agent players to their offseason roster, especially if those additional players sign one-year deals for the minimum. The Steelers can also still easily afford the signing of their 2023 class of drafted and undrafted players as well. That group of estimated 17 to 20 players should only require, at most, $3.7 million in available salary cap space.
Eventually, the Steelers will need to accommodate a 52nd and 53rd player in their salary cap along with a 16-man practice squad. The team will also need to budget for roughly $3 million in cap space for players who start the 2023 regular season on the Reserve/Injured or Reserve/PUP lists. On top of all of that, the Steelers will more than likely want to enter the 2023 regular season with $9 million in available salary cap space as a reserve fund for in-season elevations from the practice squad and additional signings.
All told, the Steelers will likely need to budget for another roughly $21.2 million in 2023 salary cap space being used from this point forward. The team is expected to restructure the contract of outside linebacker T.J. Watt prior to the start of the 2023 regular season and that transaction should create $12,613,334 in salary cap space. The team also has the ability to restructure the contracts of wide receiver Diontae Johnson and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, should it deem those mechanisms necessary. I still believe that any restructurings moving forward will only include Watt.
The Steelers current Rule of 51 will obviously go through several more changes between now and Week 1 of the 2023 regular season. Those changes could include salary cap space being created via contract terminations or trades. The two players to possibly watch closely in the next few weeks are cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and guard Kevin Dotson. There are also a few other players with base salaries of $2 million or more who might be former Steelers by Week 1 of the 2023 regular season. Those include defensive tackle Montravius Adams, wide receiver Gunner Olszewski, and safety Miles Killebrew.
Should the Steelers ultimately decide to sign outside linebacker Alex Highsmith to a contract extension prior to Week 1 of the 2023 regular season, his projected cap charge increase resulting from that should be easily covered by forthcoming roster manipulation that will take place.
Should Robinson’s pending acquisition come in at a lower cap charge than the reported $5 million, I will provide an update. Assuming the trade is finalized by Friday, his contract should hit the NFLPA database by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.