I have been harping about how bad the situation is for Pittsburgh Steelers for many months now. The passing of the new CBA really saved the team from making massive cuts as the new CBA eliminates the 30 percent rule and allows the team to do business as usual: Rob Peter to pay Paul. While this has not been a successful strategy in the nine years since the last CBA was signed, no Super Bowl rings and only three playoff wins, it is the strategy that General Manager Kevin Colbert uses. I get that Colbert has painted the team into a corner and has to rely on massive restructures in order to try to compete with other teams. The problem I really have is that he was so desperate he restricted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
(Author’s Note: Financial details have not emerged on the full details of Roethlisberger’s restructure, these are just my assumptions.)
Why do I view this as a desperate move?
How healthy is Ben? We do not even know what kind of surgery he had, but the speculation has been that it was Tommy John surgery. If this was the case, the 2020 season is in doubt and possibly his career. Jake Delhomme (32 at the time of surgery) is the most recent quarterback to have the surgery and try to resurrect his career after, albeit unsuccessfully.
What kind of playing shape is Roethlisberger even in? His Grizzly Adams beard is hiding many chins, but not even baggy sweatshirts can hide his physique that very well might push three bills.
Roethlisberger floated the notion of retirement in recent years. How will a long battle with recovery and rehabbing his elbow have on him? Will the fire that burns be extinguished by the long hours and constant pain of rehab?
With these huge questions marks, why kick the can down the road and virtually guarantee that Roethlisberger will be on the roster in 2021, if he is healthy or not?
What is the mess, and how could the team have worked around restructuring Big Ben?
The Steelers were over the cap (more on that in a future article) by $3 million which ballooned to almost $19 million after the team franchise tagged outside linebacker Bud Dupree. Through releases and restructures, the team purged a large chunk. But other moves had to be made because of restricted free agents that needed to be tagged. Without the restructure of Ben, the team would be approximately $8.5 million over the cap. As it stands now by my calculations and talking with Dave Schofield, we think the Steelers are around $8.5 million under the cap prior to the Maurkice Pouncey restructure.
The team had other moves they could have made to free up cap space, and will have to employ some of them anyway as the Steelers still need to do so.
- Sign Cam Heyward to an extension to drop his $13.3 cap hit. But this is not the Steelers’ way. Extensions rarely get done until July or August.
- Why not get Dupree under a long-term deal already?
- Why not restructure Maurkice Pouncey (since restructured), Stephon Tuitt and David DeCastro? Restructuring the trio could save up to $12.5 million, so the two remaining could save $9 million.
- Cut other fat off the roster. Roosevelt Nix is gone now. Why not show Dan McCullers and Jordan Berry the door too? Those three moves will free up $3.3 million.
- Not put the team in this position in the first place. Why shell out $68 million for a two-year extension, making him the third highest-paid quarterback in the first place? Tom Brady and Drew Brees just took team-friendly deals. Are they older? Absolutely. Do they have a checkered injury history as long as Roethlisberger? Nope.
How much of Big Ben’s contract can be restructured?
The financial details have not been released, but looking at his current contract we can project that the restructure could be as much as $20 million. The 38-year-old had a base salary of $8.5 million and a $12.5 million roster bonus. That roster bonus was expected to be doled out on March 20th. The minimum for a player with over 10 years of service is $1.05 million. Add $7.5 million and $12.5 million and you have the $20 million. Now, divide that over 2 years and there is your $10 million in cap savings this year while skyrocketing Ben’s cap hit in 2021. (Possibly as high as $41.5 million.)
Where does the cap stand now and what is not included?
As I stated earlier, I believe the cap to be around $8.5 million in the black. So what still needs to be paid out of that figure?
- Rookie draft class with a cost of at least $1.5 million, which includes the displacement of lower salaries.
- The 52nd and 53rd players that are not included in the Rule of 51 will cost a minimum of $610,000 each or $1.2 million in total.
- The 12/13 man practice squad I have estimated at $1.7. (Not positive of this figure but should not be much higher.)
That leaves the Steelers very little wiggle room in free agency until more restructures are made.
I was against giving Roethlisberger such a lucrative contract this late in his career and floored with the restructuring that makes him the highest-paid quarterback in 2021. This for a player who missed all of 2019, his 2020 season along with his career have to be in question following major elbow surgery. Does he really have the competitive juices to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory the fans have not seen in so long?
Colbert, why makes such a head-scratching restructure when others could be done? Why not wait until we really have to clear larger amounts of cap space and find out how healthy our franchise quarterback is or even his mentality following so many grueling days of rehab? Why not extend players now and change how the team conducts business? Why make such a desperate move when other moves could have been made? Why keep making the same mistakes over and over that lead to three playoff wins during the last CBA and put us in such an atrocious situation not only this year but next?
I, for one, hope this horrid decision is a wake up call not only for Colbert but also for the organization as a whole and that “business as usual” or the “Steelers way” is not working.