How the Steelers spend their salary cap, who they spend it on, and making it stretch dominates headlines and fan focus particularly during the offseason. Whether you’re Omar Khan, Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin or part of the wonderfully fanatic fan base of Steelers Nation, we’ve all got our opinions on who and what position should be favored.
First, let’s take a look at how the Steelers are currently poised to allocate their salary cap finances by position, where this sits in the NFL, and what this indicates for the season ahead.
Let’s start with breakdown of the Steelers’ current salary cap spend on offense (according to Over The Cap):
Offense: $91,558,370 (26th in the NFL)
- QB: $26,929,620 (9th in the NFL)
- RB: $3,747,089 (32nd in the NFL)
- WR: $8,290,606 (32nd in the NFL)
- TE: $10,948,131 (16th in the NFL)
- OL: $41,642,924 (14th in the NFL)
So, what can we draw from how the Steelers’ spend on the offense for 2020 by position?
First, we have the cheapest running back and wide receiver rooms in the league. The haters among the fan base—although we need our haters for a reality check and we all fall into this fan bucket at times—would say the investment is shown by poor production. Perhaps the realists would say this spend shows our focus on youth or investment in draft picks.
My takeaway is financial value, assuming we get better in production in 2020 with Ben Roethlisberger back. The Steelers immediately have value considering they tied for 30th in the league for passing touchdowns alongside the Redskins and Bengals according to Pro Football Reference. Equally, in rushing last year, the Steelers ranked 29th in yards gained and 30th in touchdowns scored. Both positions’ production is shocking to Steelers Nation, but remember in 2020 the Steelers will hopefully benefit from better passing play and teams not completely stacking the box. But the Steelers are set to pay the least at the position with no first-round draft pick currently on the roster which was spent at either position.
Secondly, at the quarterback position the Steelers are spending just under $27 million with a $23.75 million cap hit for Big Ben, $1.069 million for Mason Rudolph, followed by Paxton Lynch, Devlin Hodges and J.T. Barrett at the $825,000-$600,000 mark. While Mason Rudolph went 5-3 during starts in 2019 for a win ratio of 62.5%, he was essentially a rookie quarterback who had no quarterback coach, and comes from a college division not exactly known for its defense. In looking at some of the backups I’ve heard talked about for the Steelers this offseason, here’s what they’re earning: Case Keenum - $2.833 million, Andy Dalton - $3 million, Matt Schaub - $2.375 million, Marcus Mariota - $9.125 million, Jameis Winston - $2.86 million and Josh Rosen - $2.169 million. Sure, Cam Newton is still available, but based on these numbers he should be looking in the $4-6 million mark at a minimum. Again, with an expectation of improved production from the position, and more effective production from Rudolph when called upon, there’s value in their forecasted spend.
Now let’s take a look at the Steelers’ current defensive spend for 2020:
Defense: $107,996,048 (6th in the NFL)
- DL: $39,957,158 (11th in the NFL)
- LB: $34,741,482 (8th in the NFL)
- S: $8,222,831 (25th in the NFL)
- CB: $25,074,577 (8th in the NFL)
Immediately these numbers scream financial value, at no position are we a top 5 spenders despite this incredible defense, which even BTSC’s resident ‘Hater’ Lance Williams recently called Steel Curtain-esque during this week’s Standard is the Standard podcast titled “Will Cam Heyward get a contract extension before the season starts?”.
The numbers get better when we look at production in 2019, where the Steelers had the 6th ranked defense based on overall yards allowed, tied for 5th with the Minnesota Vikings for points allowed with 303, led the league in takeaways with 38, ranked 3rd for least passing yards allowed (3,113), again tied 5th with the Vikings with 23 interceptions, ranked 1st alongside the New England Patriots by conceding only 7 rushing touchdowns, and led the league with 54 sacks and 180 quarterback pressures (or pressures on 30.5% of all QB dropbacks).
The good news? These numbers look a whole lot better for 2020 considering the Steeles may have a healthy Stephon Tuitt coming back, Bud Dupree is improving in production, Devin Bush has a year of experience under his belt, Mike Hilton is playing for a contract whether with the Steelers or elsewhere, and we can expect a better offense which stays on the field longer.
I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below on what position you believe will deliver the most value based on the Steelers’ forecasted salary cap spend?