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An in-depth look at the Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap after the 2018 NFL Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers have 7 players to sign now, so we update the team’s salary cap.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers have completed their NFL draft and released safety J.J. Wilcox, fans can get a more clear look at the updated salary cap. Since the league year started in early March, Steelers fans have been very concerned about the cap, the team having to make major cuts or not being able to get players from the free agency market. Hopefully over the past couple of months, General Manager Kevin Colbert has alleviated some of these fears.

A lot of fans have an idea of where the Steelers stand from the website Over the Cap. If you’re an Over the Cap follower, it’s important for you to realize there are a number of items they leave out of their cap calculations. The reason for doing business this way makes sense, but it just does not give an accurate picture of the Steelers’ cap situation by the time September rolls around. Looking at the current cap just doesn’t paint a true picture of the health of the team’s cap situation.

Here is a list of things which are currently left out of the OTC calculations and will come into play between now and the kickoff of the regular season.

Rule of 51:

This is one of the biggest head-scratching items affecting the cap in the offseason. The NFL only figures the team’s 51 highest salaries into salary cap until the regular season starts. Then the top 53 salaries are figured into the NFL salary cap, 53 being the number of players who make the final regular-season roster. Why ignore calculating in the salaries of those other two players in the offseason? Your guess is as good as mine, and will be ignored.

The 2018 rookie class:

OTC lists incoming rookies at $480,000 and does not account for their true salaries until they are signed. There’s only a very slim chance of this actually not happening. So, these base salaries will be ignored and their true 2018 (estimated) slotted salaries will be used.

2018 salaries for the rookie class.

  • Terrell Edmunds: $1,951,569
  • James Washington: $819,932
  • Mason Rudolph: $714,103
  • Chuks Okorafor: $683,993

Practice squad:

The Steelers are months away from setting these 11 players, but in the end the team still has to account for the players. International Player Pathway program player Christian Scotland-Williamson, is exempted from counting against the cap while on the practice squad.

OTA per diem:

Believe it not, NFL players get a per diem for attending OTAs in the offseason. The payouts range from $1,000 to $1,800. However, not every player on the 90-man roster will attend OTAs, so the figure varies.

2019 carryover:

Think of this money as a rainy-day fund. This money is saved back in case of injuries during the regular season or other teams looking to poach players from the practice squad to up their salaries.

Now that the exciting basics have been laid out, where do the Steelers actually stand regarding the cap?

OTC has been a little bit wonky, and its cap figures are different from those of the NFLPA and other sites. However, those other sites are all within $500,000 of OTC’s numbers, so for this I will use OTC cap figures.

  • Current cap space: $6,052,856
  • Draft picks including displacement: $2,008,090
  • The inclusion of 52 and 53 players: $1.11 million
  • Practice squad: $1.4 million
  • OTA per diem: $250,000
  • Carryover: $3.5 million

Total: -$2.2 million

What I do not include in the above are the three draft picks who do not count in the top 53 salaries. If all three indeed make the roster, they would save under $70,000 with displacement (when a new player is signed into a top 53 salary position, that player knocks someone else out of the top 53).

The Steelers still have to create some cap space, but out of a total of $180 million, what they need to create is minimal. Will the Steelers restructure another contract? Will one of the higher-priced vets be jettisoned? What do you think will happen?