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Updating the Steelers’ 2019 salary cap position heading into free agency

An analytical look at the numbers before the start of the new league year.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The season is over and the offseason is in full swing as the Pittsburgh Steelers make the tough decisions that will impact the 2019 season. The team is already in business mode signing the team’s 2018 practice squad players, unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights free agents. Pittsburgh still has 30 open spots to fill to get to the 90 man offseason roster and many will deduct from the Steelers ever shrinking salary cap space.

Over the Cap has the Steelers cap space at $18,129,956. That figure includes the recent contract extension for Tyson Alualu but does not include other basic accounting that transpires in the offseason. It includes the projected $10 million the site is expecting the NFL salary cap to rise and the team’s 2018 money that was not spent the prior season. How much cap space can Steelers fans expect to have to head into free agency? Not an easy question to answer.

During the offseason, the Rule of 51 is in effect. The rule states that teams must stay in cap compliance with their top 51 salaries. Steelers fans do not care that it includes only 51 salaries in cap figures, they care what the real numbers are. So what are the real numbers?

What is not included in the current OTC amount?

52 and 53 players who will make the final roster: $1 million minimum. (Likely more.)

10 man practice squad: $1,360,000 ($8,000 weekly minimum.) Per CBA.

The 2019 NFL draft class: $6,316,823

The possible resigning of the 15 unrestricted free agents: Cap hit unknown.

The possible resigning of the two restricted free agents: Xavier Grimble and BJ Finney, if tendered even at original round tenders would cost $2.035,000 each according to Over the Cap.

The possible resigning of the six exclusive rights free agents: The 2018 value for ERFA players was $555,000 each. The 2018 value should be close to $600,000 each.

Keep in mind that, when a player is added that carries a higher salary than $495,000, the last player will not count against the salary cap. For example, if Pittsburgh signs cornerback Mike Hilton to an ERFA contract for $600,000, Herb Waters drops off and the cap space will decrease by $105,000.

Potential breakdown

Starting cap space: $18,129,956

52 and 53 players: $1.2 million (ERFA value)

Practice squad: $1,360,000

2019 draft class (Only five picks count as others are below the salary of 53 player.): $5,262,298

RFA cost: $3.11 million (Second round tender to Finney and no offer for Grimble.)

ERFA cost: $3.6 million as all six kept.

Subtotal: $2,543,133

Fourteen players’ salaries the above players will replace: $7,085,000

Total: $9,628,133

That number may increase by $1 million if/when disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown gets traded not to mention other players who could get their walking papers. The cap space is sure to decrease due to unrestricted free agents from other teams and the Steelers own, who end up signing on the dotted line. Will the Steelers look to extend high-priced veterans on the team or do restructures to kick cap hits down the road? General manager Kevin Colbert and contract specialist Omar Khan will be busy answering those questions throughout the offseason.