The Pittsburgh Steelers are now past the 2023 NFL Draft and next up for the team will be the annual rookie camp. With this being an important part of the offseason, it’s time to take another look at where the Steelers now sit relative to the NFL salary cap, especially now that we have the new full contract details for wide receiver Allen Robinson, who was acquired via a trade a few weeks ago.
As of Tuesday morning, the NFLPA Salary Cap page has the Steelers $8,053,919 under the cap and that amount is still pending the signing of cornerback Chandon Sullivan to a one-year contract. Additionally, the NFLPA site has still yet to implement the annual workout bonus placeholder amount of $849,600. All told, the Steelers are really $7,204,319 under the cap. Additionally, the one-year contract that Sullivan is expected to sign will likely be a veteran benefit contract with no signing bonus. If that’s indeed the case, his signing would not use additional salary cap money in the Rule of 51.
None of the Steelers’ seven selections in the 2023 NFL Draft have signed their rookie contracts. The same goes for the seven undrafted free agents the team has reportedly come to terms with. The undrafted free agents should officially be signed by the start of rookie minicamp, and during that weekend a few of the draft picks should sign their rookie deals as well. We have budgeted for those signings in the table of data below.
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 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 $21.9 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 created via contract terminations or trades. One player to watch closely in the next few weeks is cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, especially on the heels of the team adding two cornerbacks during the draft and one more over the weekend via free agency in Sullivan. 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 guard Kevin Dotson, 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.