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Updating the Steelers’ 2018 salary cap position heading into training camp

A look at where the Steelers’ stand in relation to their salary cap as training camp blasts off in Latrobe.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Minicamp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With Terrell Edmunds and Eli Rogers signing recent contracts, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason spending or saving will take a hiatus, unless injuries or poor performers necessitate diving into the free-agent market. Pittsburgh isn’t done using up the $4 million in current cap space (estimated due to Edmund’s and Rogers contract details not yet being released) according to Over the Cap (OTC). The issue with that $4 million figure is that it’s misleading and incomplete.

But the misleading and incomplete figures are not due to the way in which OTC does business — it’s due to how the NFL handles the salary cap during the offseason. During the offseason, teams only have to worry about the salaries of the 51 highest-paid players but not the other 12 who’ll wind up on the Steelers’ payroll. So why does the NFL take this approach? Your guess is as good as mine.

What exactly in the $4 million figure is left out?

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 the salary cap until after the regular season starts. Then, the players who have made the 53-man roster are counted in the NFL salary cap. Why ignore calculating in the salaries of those other two players during the offseason? Your guess is as good as mine.

Practice squad:

The Steelers are less than two months away from confirming these (potential) 11 players. But in the end, the team still has to account for the players. International Player Pathway program hopeful, Christian Scotland-Williamson, is exempted from counting against the cap if he makes the practice squad.

2019 carryover:

Think of this money as a rainy-day fund. Pittsburgh holds this money back in case of injuries during the regular season or to prevent other teams from poaching players from their practice squad by raising their salaries.

Ladarrius Green’s Injury Protection benefit

Even though Green was released in May 2017, he’s eligible for the payment having injured himself playing for the Steelers and ending the 2016 season on injured reserve. Paid $1.15 million in 2017 when he was unable to find a new team because of the injury, he will be able to make a final claim in 2018, assuming the injury prevents him from playing once again.

Current cap space: $4 million

  • The inclusion of 52 and 53 players: $1.11 million
  • Practice squad: $1,292,000
  • Carryover: $3.5 million
  • Ladarrius Green Injury Protection benefit: $550,000

Total: -$2,452,000

  • What does OTC already include in the 2018 cap space?
  • The 2017 carryover: $4 million
  • Injured reserve: $1,125,622 (does not include Ryan Shazier, as he’s on the PUP list — which is simply a formality to him heading to IR for bookkeeping purposes.)
  • Dead money: $5,818,595 (This amount is from players who were released that had guaranteed money still owed to them.)
  • Le’Veon Bell: The salary counts against the cap even though he remains unsigned. That will be rectified around September 1.

Fans shouldn’t be anxious about that $2.45 million in the red. There will be players outside of the top-53 who push their way onto the roster and are less expensive than others. Mike Hilton is a prime example. When OTC updates and adds Edmunds and Rogers, 2017 surprise starting slot cornerback, Mike Hilton, will drop out of the top 53. But barring a meltdown in training camp or the preseason, he should make the team. But Coty Sensabaugh and his $1.4 million base salary is likely staring down the Turk (surprised he hasn’t already been visited). That move alone would save $850,000 towards the cap.

Pittsburgh might also elect to do another rework of one of the veterans’ contracts. This is incredibly unlikely at this time unless the Steelers were to land a pricey acquisition. Signing restricted free agents Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry or Anthony Chickillo to long-term deals will also have salary-cap implications. Any contract extension should drop their 2018 cap numbers.

Which players in the top-53 do you think don’t survive final cuts? Remember that the NFL changed its rules and there’s only one cut scheduled for September 3. Who will be the players outside of the top-53 who replace them? Do you feel more relieved about the salary cap than you did back in March?