In the wake of the Pittsburgh Steelers trade of disgruntled wide receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders over the weekend, the organization is taking heat from the media on all sides. From those questioning the return they got for the player, to others questioning the integrity of their words leading up to the trade, it is a rough day to be a Steelers fan if you are following the news on Monday.
But while some of the barbs might seem unfair and perhaps a little one sided, they are merely opinions some might not agree with rather than fake news passed off as fact. However, there is one narrative that appears to be gaining momentum surrounding the team’s decision to restructure Brown’ s contract in 2018 that is a pure fabrication, an unfounded criticism made by both local and national reporters.
Think the Steelers regret frontloading him money last year in a restructure in an attempt to sign Bell? All that did was hike up dead money cap hit this year.— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) March 10, 2019
Short term gain = long term pain. See Brown, Antonio and Pittsburgh Steelers. https://t.co/6rdWHGezqX— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) March 11, 2019
To say that this is undeniably false is not simply an opinion, but a fact born out by the simple mathematics these critics have chosen to ignore.
When the Steelers restructured the contract of Brown last season, they turned $12.96 million of the money he was due that year into a signing bonus that was spread out over the remaining length of his deal. The move created $9.72 million in salary cap space in 2018 and added $3.24 million to each of the remaining years of his contract in 2019 and beyond.
But with the cap space having been created to accommodate the franchise tag placed on Le’Veon Bell that he never signed, the money rolled over into 2019 as part of the $14.544 million the team saw credited back to their account.
Had the restructure not happened, trading Brown would only have left Pittsburgh with $11.4 million in dead money to account for this season, rather than $21.12 million, but they would not have had the $9.72 million to rollover from the previous year, leaving them in exactly the same place their are now financially. It should not require a math professor to point out that $11.4 million plus $9.72 million equals $21.12 million.
If Bell had played the season and the restructure money had been spent, there would be a fair argument to make that the Steelers had erred, but given that he sat out, the criticism is completely without merit.
Noted Steelers salary cap expert Ian Whetstone was the first to point out the fallacy in this line of thinking, providing a far more detail rebuttal on Sunday that he has kindly allowed us to share here. An explanation that is well worth a read for those interested in the facts rather than the media fiction.