With the Pittsburgh Steelers up against the salary cap for the 2020 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this off-season. While there are several players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap, I have already outlined the players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season. This time, let’s look at the players who could save the Steelers some cap space but the dead money hit would be a lot to overcome. Just to clarify, “dead money” is the amount money already paid to a player that has yet to be accounted for under the salary cap.
Here is a list of the four Steelers who have at least a $1 million higher dead money amount than cap savings if they were to be released for the 2020 season. Granted, most of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But even though their departure would be highly unlikely even without their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of overthecap.com and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut (the only type available the the final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement).
Dead money: $25,000,000
Cap Savings: $8,500,000
The salary situation for Ben Roethlisberger is completely different than the rest of the players under contract with the Steelers. His dead money hit for 2020 is $10 million more than anybody else’s cap number on the team. While the Steelers could save $8.5 million if they moved on from Rothlisberger which is the second highest savings possible for a single player only behind Cameron Heyward, $25 million is a big number to swallow. Should the Steelers choose to cut ties with Rothlisberger after next season, his dead money hit is cut in half while the Steelers would save $19 million against the cap.
Dead money: $11,200,000
Cap Savings: $1,400,000
Other than the players who would cost the Steelers more dead money if they were released, Joe Haden has the most retainable contract out of any other Steelers’ player. With a dead money hit of over $11 million and only saving less than $1.5 million, cutting Joe Haden would make zero sense even if he wasn’t a Pro Bowl player. Making a habit of paying such a large amount with so little savings is something that can set a franchise back for years.
Dead money: $6,000,000
Cap Savings: $5,000,000
With only having a slightly larger dead money hit then caps savings, Maurkice Pouncey is the most interesting name on this list. While taking a dead money hit of $6 million is not favorable to say the least, a $5 million cap savings would also be beneficial to the Steelers. But with Pouncey being the only center on the Steelers roster who has taken a regular-season NFL snap, they would need to have a serious plan in place for the position should they decide to move on. All things considered, the only way the numbers make sense to move on from Pouncey would be if the Steelers could use the cap savings to sign B.J. Finney for a lesser amount in 2020.
Dead money: $6,063,334
Cap Savings: $968,332
If Joe Hayden‘s contract has him being a slam dunk for the Steelers to hold onto in 2020, Vince Williams is an uncontested layup. While he does not have as much of a dead money hit, there is no use to move on from a key player who’s cap savings is less than $1 million.
So these are the four players currently under contract with the Steelers who have a dead money hit which is more than $1 million than their salary cap savings. While it does not make it impossible to cut any of these players, the savings might not be worth how much they still continue to count towards the salary cap. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, it would be foolish for the Steelers to cut ties with most of these four players.