The 2011 and the 2020 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreements put all teams on the same level playing field — what teams have done since then has been on them. Wasting salary cap dollars is as devastating as wasting top draft choices. Each can have an impact not only for individual years but years to come. The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the top teams of the past decade in terms of not eating dead cap space until wideout Antonio Brown’s cheese slid off his cracker and the team ate over $21 million in dead cap space when he was traded to the Oakland Raiders. LaMarr Woodley is another notable former Steeler who departed the team with a substantial cap hit left on the books in the form of $14 million. Former first round bust, Artie Burns flashed early in his career only to fizzle out while walking away from the team in 2020 via free agency with $9.6 million in salary for his four years of service. The Steelers have had an impressive amount of success during the regular season since 2011, but that has not carried over to the playoffs. A few million wasted here and there very well could have been the difference.
A few million dollars in cap space could allow a team to upgrade at a position instead of having to slide in an aging journeyman or an unproven, inexperienced player. Who are the three players that I believe are not worth their cap space in 2020?
3: Derek Watt $2.08 million
Do you realize that T.J. Watt’s older brother only makes $900,000 less than T.J.? Does the team really need a 28-year-old fullback who will see maybe 10 percent of the offensive snaps while hopefully being a core special teamer? Watt has 19 career rushes with a 2.6 YPC average and 10 receptions with a 15.2 average which is bloated because of a 52-yard reception his rookie season. His offensive contribution will come via run blocking where he has not excelled in the past.
2: Vince Williams $7.03 million
The tenth largest cap hit on the team has been a favorite punching bag of mine over the years. That is a hefty sum to pay a two-down thumper who is an absolute liability in coverage. Soon to be 31, he is coming off a 2019 which saw him start eight games while missing seven tackles in under 400 snaps. His best days are behind him while $7 million is just too much cap space taken up by a part-time player.
1: Stephon Tuitt $14.94 million
In his six-year Steelers career, Tuitt has never started a full slate of 16 games. Still just 27, he has flashed dominant play-making ability every season, but every season has been derailed at some point because of a myriad of injuries. Tuitt started off 2019 hot with 3.5 sacks in the first three games, only to have the season wiped out in Week 6 due to a torn pectoral muscle. Tuitt averages just under four sacks a season, mainly because of injuries which have cost him 16 games over the past three seasons. As the tenth-highest paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL, can he hit double digit sacks while playing against the run at his usual top level? Steelers fans can only hope, but history says no.
I was fine when the Steelers moved on from Rosie Nix ($875,000 in 2020 dead money). I was just baffled by spending so much on a fullback whose principal contribution will be on special teams this season. Was the free agency or draft cupboard that bare? As frustrated as I am with Williams on the field, when not rushing the passer, I know he will not live up to that huge $7 million 2020 salary nor his $7 million with $3 million guaranteed in 2021. I really like Tuitt, his cap hit is just too hefty for anything outside of first team Pro Bowl selection in 2020. How can he achieve this if he cannot get his keister out of the tub?
It would have been fantastic to have had the cap space to grab a true nose tackle or anyone but a journeyman guard so the team does not have to move arguably the best 2019 offensive linemen to fill the void.
Am I off base with the three players listed above? If so, who do you believe will not live up to their cap hits?