The NFL announced on Tuesday that the 2019 NFL salary cap would rise from $177.2 million in 2018 to between $187 million and $191.1 million. What does the increase mean for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019? The Steelers are under the cap by $28,646,319 according to Over the Cap (This figure already accounted for the cap rising $10 million.). 2019 would mark the sixth consecutive year that the NFL salary cap has risen by at least $10 million. The 2013 salary cap for the NFL was $123 million, therefore the NFL cap has jumped 40% in that span. For 2019 this means Pittsburgh is in fantastic shape cap wise with between $28.6 million and $32.7 million. In recent years, Steelers fans have lamented about the team’s salary cap crunches but that should not be an issue in 2019.
The Steelers have a substantial list of free agents that the team will have to decide what to do with as there are only 38 players under contract for 2019 and some of them are end of the roster fodder or practice squad players. There are 16 unrestricted free agents (UFA), two restricted free agents (RFA) and nine exclusive rights free agents (ERFA.)
Most notable names who will be UFAs are running back Le’Veon Bell, left guard Ramon Foster, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, punter Jordan Berry, and linebacker LJ Fort. Tight end Xavier Grimble and interior linemen BJ Finney are the RFA players. Of the ERFA players, offensive tackle Matt Feiler, cornerback Mike Hilton and long snapper Kameron Canaday top the list. Who may walk and who will be signed will be the hot topic in the comments section. Only Bell would top the list of high priced free agents, and fans believe he will not return. They could reward Finney with a new contract if the Steelers front office sees him as the future if the Steelers let the soon to be 33-year-old Foster walk. Hilton has had his difficulties in 2018 and with the team having control over him through the 2020 season, the team just may wait to see how his 2019 season plays out before signing him to a large long-term contract.
The Steelers could do housecleaning and free up more cap space or subtract from the amount of cap space due to cutting players with guaranteed money left on their deals that would accelerate that guaranteed money into dead money in 2019. Such players could include kicker Chris Boswell (Who might not even last out the week.) Former first-round bust Artie Burns could have his neck on the chopping block and off injured safety Morgan Burnett and even Marcus Gilbert. (Gilbert has missed 20 games in the past three seasons and is on the shelf with an injury.)
It is early to speculate on the needs of the 2019 Steelers but a few positions stand out. A true starting caliber cornerback opposite Joe Haden would top the shopping list. (This will be heavily covered in the offseason.) Berry who has been the Steelers punter for the past four seasons has been under fire most of the season due to erratic punting. Depth at every position group on the defense. Will that depth be found via players on the roster, through the draft or via free agency? How will the depth at wide receiver shake out and along the offensive line and tight end? Adding a dynamic running back to back up James Conner may also be a need.
With three games left in the regular season, Steelers fans are concentrating how long the Steelers season will last. If the current losing streak does not end soon, fans will speculate full time on how to spend the tens of millions of dollars in 2019 instead of making plans to watch Pittsburgh in the postseason.