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Art Rooney II’s comments about the 2021 salary cap make Steelers decisions difficult

The Pittsburgh Steelers have several decisions to make, and the unknown of the 2021 salary cap makes those decisions difficult.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot of uncertainty swirling around the 2020 NFL season. Uncertainty if the games will start, and end, on time. Uncertainty of the health of the players, coaches and personnel. Uncertainty to whether a contact sport like football being played outside a bubble is even feasible.

Then there is the uncertainty of revenue. The current salary cap is set at $198.2 million dollars, but with no, or not many, fans expected to be in attendance at games in 2020, this could be crippling for the league’s finances. Billions, yes billions, are expected to be lost if fans cannot be in seats this season.

With that said, it leaves the future salary cap numbers up in the air. Thanks to the league and the players union coming to terms on a separate Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for the 2020 season, they have put a salary cap floor in place at $175 million. In other words, the cap could crash, but is guaranteed to not go below the $175 million figure for the 2021 season.

When you consider the ramifications of this happening you realize how a team like the Steelers could be in dire straits. Always spending up to the cap limit, the Steelers would have to make severe cuts, or not re-sign players, just to comply with the league’s new cap number. Team President Art Rooney II spoke to KDKA’s Bob Pompeani prior to the team’s Saturday evening practice and spoke about the uncertain financial future of the NFL, and how it can have an impact on the team’s decision making.

“It’s just an usual year. The planning for the salary cap has been difficult just like everything else about this year. We’re doing our best. We’re trying to make the best decisions we can make.” Rooney said. “The good news is I think we will have our team pretty much intact going into this season. We’ll just have to deal with next season, next season.”

For players like Cam Heyward, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, Bud Dupree and even T.J. Watt, any hope of a shiny new contract anytime soon seems to be out of the question for now. Regardless, the season needs to start on time, and remain on television, for the league to get the most out of their current situation. Rooney is confident in this happening, and this will only help the finances of the league.

“I feel good about the season,” said Rooney. “I think we will play the season. If we have to adjust somewhere along the way I think we have to adapt. This year has been that for everybody. You have to learn to adapt and make the best out of the situation. I know the league is prepared for that. We are prepared for that. I feel good about the season getting started on time and hopefully ending on time. We’ll see.”

Having games is one thing, but having fans in seats is another. Even at partial capacity, having patrons in attendance will only help the team, and league’s, current financial situation. Rooney isn’t giving up on having fans at Heinz Field in 2020.

“We miss the fans,” said Rooney. “We haven’t given up completely on potentially having fans at some point during the season. We continue to work with the Governor’s office on that. We’ll see. If things improve, perhaps we will have some fans at some point during the season. It will be different. The home field advantage will be very different around the league. Some stadiums are going to have fans, some are not. It’s like everything else this year it’s going to be an unusual situation we just have to adapt to.”

Could the Steelers find a way to keep a player like Heyward by giving them a new contract prior to Week 1? Absolutely, but they will have to be creative with how they structure the deal. Structuring the contract by having a cap hit that wouldn’t kill the team in 2021 if the cap is decreased.

There is a lot of uncertainty swirling around the NFL, and the Steelers, heading into the 2020 season.

For the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold, stay tuned to BTSC as the team prepares for the 2020 regular season.