Nfl.com has posted the current salary cap status of all 32 NFL teams, and it is summarized nicely over on Steelers Depot (www.steelersdepot.com). I'm not going to reproduce it here but you can go and look at the list on those two sites if you'd like to see the details.
What I will comment on is what company the Steelers find themselves among on the list and where some of the other teams with recent success are. The Steelers are fourth overall (over the cap), finding ourselves in the illustrious company of the Jets and the Cowboys as the only teams more than $20M over the cap. 2012 playoff teams that are UNDER the cap include Houston, Green Bay, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New England, Seattle, Denver, Baltimore and Minnesota, with San Francisco at only $49K above the cap. Among playoff teams, only Washington has a real cap problem to deal with ($5.9M).
What I find quite stunning is that there are a number of teams here that have had a string of recent successful years (like the Steelers have had) that still find themselves with cap room before any 2013 cap gymnastics are done - Green Bay, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, New England. In some cases (like Baltimore), this has to do with the fact that a number of their players are now free agents, but they still have left themselves a lot of room to maneuver to deal with it.
If the natural course of events is that a string of successful seasons results in increasing payroll demands which causes salary cap stress, then these teams have dealt with it FAR more successfully than the Steelers have. And this brings me to question whether or not the Steelers have actually done as good job of managing against the cap as we like to think around here. Certainly it looks like the above mentioned five teams have a better formula than we do.
I remember ARII saying after the mess of the 2009 season that the two main points of focus needed to be (i) run the ball more effectively and (ii) get more contribution from young players sooner. The latter is the essence of NFL moneyball management. The longer your (inexpensive) draft picks sit on the bench, the more expensive your player-minutes are going to be, because you're giving all your snaps to expensive veterans. The Steelers have VERY expensive player-minutes due to a number of things:
- Draft picks not panning out.
- Taking very long to develop young players into starter-capable players.
- Having systems that do not allow for most young players to step in and play as rookies.
I think that this is really the biggest long-term problem affecting the Steelers. The whole cap situation is simply the symptom of it and constant contract restructurings aren't going to fix anything fundamental until we deal with the above.