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Odds the Steelers sign their 20 pending free agents before hitting the open market in 2021

With the financial uncertainty beyond the 2020 season, it will be difficult to sign current Steelers players to new deals before the start of the regular season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

It is not a secret the Pittsburgh Steelers have some mammoth salary cap issues heading into 2021, and the team has 20 players up for new contracts at the end of the 2020 season.

But where should the team’s priorities lie?

Tough decisions will have to be made.

Projections have the NFL salary cap contracting down to as low as the threshold of $175 million from $198 million in 2020. This has to come into focus when extending or waiting until the end of the season to hand out a new deal. I will not get all wild and crazy and say the Steelers cannot afford to pay any of their current players, instead I will base my likelihood of them returning.

Amara Darboh (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Paxton Lynch (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Breon Borders (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Wendell Smallwood (0%) Doubt he makes the team this year.

Ryan Switzer (0%) Expensive buddy of Ben Roethlisberger cannot remain employed for the mediocrity he brings.

Mike Hilton (0%) I think he is that good of a CB and will command a lucrative contract.

James Conner (5%) Too brittle to be counted upon, especially with a host of relatively high draft picks waiting in the wings.

Bud Dupree (5%) OLBs are not a dime a dozen and the Steelers cannot afford his services.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (10%) Big year, he prices himself out of our market. Another down year and he will want a change of venue.

Cameron Heyward (10%) Ironhead’s son is arguably the 2nd best defensive linemen in the league. Even at 31, he will command a huge contract that the Steelers cannot afford.

Daniel McCullers (15%) Kevin Colbert refuses to draft a player high enough to replace ‘Shadetree’.

Tyson Alualu (25%) He will be 34 in 2021. Pittsburgh might have to bring him back next year, no matter how he does at NT as a cheap starter.

Jordan Berry (25%) At $2.175 million this year, I hope the mediocre punter does not make the team this year. But he probably will.

Deon Cain (25%) I am a big fan of his and want to put a higher percentage up there due to my bias, but will refrain a bit.

Jordan Dangerfield (50%) The team needs cheap veteran talent with starter experience. Their could be a lot of players like Dangerfield as backups and starters in 2021.

Zach Banner (50%) So hard to really say about Banner because of his limited number of snaps. 2020 will be an audition for a big payday, or taking a minimum salary in 2021.

Matt Feiler (50%) There is not a bigger free agent in 2021, in my opinion. Can the Steelers afford him? Can they afford to let him go?

Alejandro Villanueva (75%) Villanueva does not get enough credit for protecting Roethlisberger’s backside. Is he an elite left tackle? No. Does he get paid like an elite left tackle? No. He is a necessity protecting a $41 million QB with a long list of injuries.

Cameron Sutton (90%) While I am not a Sutton fan, losing Mike Hilton makes the move a necessity.

Chris Wormley (90%) An excellent run stuffer who offers excruciating little in the pass rush aspect, Wormley is exactly what the Steelers need to replace Heyward. Cheap, young (26), with some talent, but not too much.


That is a very long list of players the team has no money to re-sign at this point. Maybe the NFL and NFLPA work out some kind of agreement and the cap remains flat and does not contract. Even with a flat cap, the team has an effective cap of $18 million in 2021 according to Over the Cap. That number does not include the 2021 draft class and a host of other transactions that will take place in 2021.

What percentages did I get right, and which ones did I get wrong? Please share your thoughts in the new comment section below.