Every team needs big production from players who outperform their salary cap hits for a given year. These savings can come from rookies who start early in their careers or veterans trying to reestablish themselves or are early in their subsequent contracts. There are quite a few Pittsburgh Steelers who could fit into criteria in 2020 and it was difficult to sift through and pick out only
three four. I just could not limit the list to three.
In case you missed it, my previous article where I went over the Steelers with the worst cap hits in 2020.
4.) Minkah Fitzpatrick: $2 million
No one will argue Minkah Fitzpatrick does not deserve to be on this list after five interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns in 2019 but they will argue fourth is too low. I just do not see him repeating those numbers in 2020 and needs to improve on finishing tackles with eight misses. Most of his interceptions and fumble recoveries were opportunistic and not “WOW” plays. He was just in the right place at the right time so often. If he becomes more integral in stopping the run in 2020 (36 solo tackles) then I will have some crow to eat. As Pittsburgh acquired Minkah via trade, his prorated signing bonus was paid out by the Miami Dolphins at a cost of $5 million this year.
3.) JuJu Smith-Schuster: $1.34 million
Some in Steelers Nation will have a colossal problem with JuJu making this list, and even more that I put him above Fitzpatrick. Hear me out first.
15 100 yard games in 43 contests.
15 games with a 15 yards per catch average
16 games with at least one touchdown
Stat line combined of the two games he fumbled in: 18-190-1TD.
Those two fumbles and the games he missed last year along with poor quarterback play have the ire of some fans.
With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Smith-Schuster will return to his 100 plus catch 1,400 yard season of two years ago. I fully expect him to reach the 100 catch mark while his yardage will depend on how one-dimensional the team gets but should surpass 1,300 yards.
A dominant season will lead to a huge payday, but by what team? Enjoy him while he is cheap.
2.) Steven Nelson: $7 million
When Nelson signed with the Steelers, I was so thrilled. One of the most heavily targeted cornerbacks in the NFL had flourished in 2018 while surrendering 53 percent of 128 targets. As solid as those numbers were, his 2019 season was even better, even though he was routinely underrated by the fans and media. The former Kansas City Chief allowed 37 receptions over 72 targets for a 51 percent completion rate. The stat that is most impressive was he did not surrender a touchdown via the pass. Two other notable cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown were Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White, both of whom were selected as All-Pros in 2019.
Only 27, he is vastly underpaid compared to league leading Gilmore at $18.7 million and has the 23rd highest cap hit in 2020.
#Steelers' CB Steven Nelson might not be talked about as one of the best shutdown corners in the league, but his 2019 numbers suggest that he was right there with the best .. if not better.https://t.co/GKZqrZE71C pic.twitter.com/BJ5nrAaiFg— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) January 14, 2020
1.) T.J. Watt: $2.9 million
Only 25, Watt has already been selected to two Pro Bowls and named as an All-Pro. Watt led the NFL with eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, while tallying 14.5 sacks, eight pass deflections, 2 interceptions, but only 35 solo tackles. As his game continues to mature, he can dominate opposing offenses.
As with JuJu above, enjoy him while he is cheap, as the sky is the limit with his playing ability, so could his contract demands.
Luckily for the Steelers, they have a stable of young players on the cheap right now who are budding superstars. Who is on your list of four? Ben Roethlisberger with his meager $24 million cap hit? Devin Bush at $4.3 million? Chukwuma Okorafor at under $1M? Let’s see your rankings below in the comments section.