With the Pittsburgh Steelers dealing with a difficult salary cap situation for the 2021 season, much discussion has been made about which players may become cap casualties this offseason. While there are several players who can save the Steelers a significant amount of space under the salary cap, there are several players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season.
Here is a list of the four Steelers who would be more beneficial to stay on the roster than it would be to release them for the 2021 season. Granted, most of these players the Steelers would not consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production. But even though their departure would be highly unlikely even without their salary cap situation, it never hurts to know the numbers. All figures listed are courtesy of overthecap.com and reflect if the player was a pre-June 1 cut.
Only a fool would suggest a team who traded up in the first round of the draft to select a player should release them after only his second season, especially when it was cut short due to injury. Devin Bush is not going anywhere with the Steelers for a long time. Not only would it cost just over $6 million in 2021 with a pre-June 1 cut, it would cost over $3 million as a post-June 1 cut and would push the cap hit into future years. There would be no cap savings for cutting Bush next season either. It’s a good thing the Steelers won’t even consider the notion of moving on from Bush.
The reason Heyward is on this list and has the salary cap implications he does is due to being the player who received the new deal during the 2020 offseason. Currently one of only for non-rookie contract players under contract in 2022 and the only one under contract in 2023, Heyward is the lone Steeler of any type who has a contract through the 2024 NFL season. Because he is so early in the new deal, it would not save the Steelers anything if they were to release Hayward unless they did so with a post June 1 designation. Either way, the Steelers would be on the hook for the same amount of dead money, it would just be spread out over future years.
Going into his second season as the Steelers top draft pick of 2020, I’ll be at in the second round, Chase Claypool would have more money going towards the salary cap based on his signing bonus than he is due to make over the next two seasons. Of course it is foolish to cut any player on their rookie deal as the cost of replacement it’s so much more, Claypool’s production alone highly outweighs his current salary.
Yes, releasing Fitzpatrick wouldn’t cost more money like the others, it would not save the Steelers even one dollar as Fitzpatrick’s contract signed by the Dolphins was fully guaranteed. Given the various factors of the Steelers giving up a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, his two-time All-Pro status, and the fact he is on his rookie deal which costs the Steelers minimally towards the salary cap, Fitzpatrick will be in Black & Gold in 2021. Also, look for the Steelers to pick up Fitzpatrick’s fifth-year option this offseason.
So these are the only four players where it would not benefit the Steelers salary cap by releasing them prior to June 1. While there are plenty of other players who would carry a large dead-money value which would detract to the team for moving on, actually costing the Steelers cap space (or not gaining a single dollar) by their departure means these four players won’t be going anywhere. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, it would be difficult for the Steelers to cut ties with any of these four players.
Stay tuned to BTSC for upcoming articles on players whose dead money outweighs their savings as well as players who give the most cap savings versus the dead money hit.