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6 Steelers whose dead money outweighs their cap savings if released in 2021

While releasing these players could give the Steelers some salary cap space, the amount of “dead money” the Steelers would absorb makes it a difficult financial move

NFL: DEC 02 Ravens at Steelers Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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, I have already outlined the players on the team which would cost more against the cap than to keep them for the season.

In part 2 of 3, let’s look at the players who could save the Steelers some cap space but the dead money hit would be a lot to overcome. Just to clarify, “dead money” is the amount money already paid to a player that has yet to be accounted for under the salary cap. In the first part of the series, it was obvious those players weren’t going anywhere based on the numbers, let alone their worth on the field. This time, it’s a little bit more complex as some players are more obvious to stay than others.

Here is a list of the six Steelers who have at least a $1 million dead money amount if they were to be released for the 2021 season, and this value exceeds their salary cap savings. While some of these players the Steelers won’t consider moving on from anytime soon based on their on-field production, others may offer some much-needed cap relief despite their dead money amount. Remember, another option is for the Steelers to extend any of these players which could help the situation. As usual, 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.


Ben Roethlisberger

Dead money: $22,250,000
Cap Savings: $19,000,000

The problem when it comes to Ben Roethlisberger is both of these numbers are extremely high. With the majority of Roethlisberger‘s 2021 salary cap hit being in the form of dead money, it makes it difficult for the Steelers to pay so much for someone who would no longer be on the team. But on the other hand, do the Steelers really wants to pay an additional $19 million to a quarterback who turns 39 before the start of next season? It’s extremely difficult for the Steelers to keep Roethlisberger at this number, but the only way to reduce it and keep him on the team is to knock off some of that $19 million in the form of an extension. But it’s still the same problem: Do the Steelers want to invest more years in a quarterback who only has one season left before turning 40?


Stephon Tuitt

Dead money: $9,281,500
Cap Savings: $5,659,250

When it comes to Stephon Tuitt, he is one of the few players not on a rookie contract who has multiple years left as it runs through the 2022 season. Although the option could be to spread out Tuitt’s dead money over two seasons if the Steelers chose to move on, it’s still over $9 million which will have to be accounted for at some point, let alone for someone not playing. Add in the fact Tuitt only missed time in 2020 due to being on the COVID-19 list, coupled with the fact he had his best season of his career, saving a little more than $5.5 million on the salary cap is not worth it to also lose Tuitt’s production.


Joe Haden

Dead money: $8,575,000
Cap Savings: $7,000,000

Much like Roethlisberger, Joe Haden is it one of those difficult decisions where his salary cap number does carry more dead money than what the Steelers would save should they move on from him. With the opportunity to save $7 million on the salary cap, the Steelers have to decide what they would like to do with Haden moving forward. Turning 32 this spring, there are fans who feel strongly on both sides as to whether or not the Steelers should retain or release Haden. Being the last year of his deal, the Steelers do you have the option of an extension in order to lower the cap hit for 2021.


Terrell Edmunds

Dead money: $2,221,053
Cap Savings: $1,182,789

Although he fits into this category, the fact Terrell Edmunds is still one is rookie deal makes it foolish to consider releasing him as there would be a little value in terms of the salary cap. Saving a mere $1 million while taking a dead money hit of over $2 million, Edmunds’ worth on the field is much more there any concern with his salary cap number.


Chris Boswell

Dead money: $3,366,667
Cap Savings: $1,406,666

With another strong season kicking for the Steelers in 2020, Chris Boswell actually has two years left on his contract with the Steelers. Much like Edmunds, the savings would be so little from a number standpoint to justify releasing their kicker, let alone the fact that Boswell’s on-field performance is well worth his contract.


Derek Watt

Dead money: $2,166,667
Cap Savings: $1,666,666

This is a case where the numbers really matter. Many Steelers fans are wondering why they have invested so much money in a fullback to be so seldom used. Who knows what Steelers wants to do with the position moving forward once they announce a new offensive coordinator, but if you’re going to employ a fullback at this price it makes sense to use them. With that said, Derek Watt has two years left on his contract and would not save very much on the salary cap versus how much he would cost in dead money. So for 2021, it makes sense for the middle Watt child to still be in Pittsburgh.


So these are the six players currently under contract with the Steelers who have a dead money hit which is more than their salary cap savings. While it does not make it impossible to cut any of these players, the savings might not be worth how much they still continue to count towards the salary cap. Of course, this is strictly from a numbers perspective. When factoring on-the-field performance, it’s not about the dead money as much as how much they can save if the Steelers feel their performance is not worth their salary.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the 3rd and final part outlining players who give the most cap savings versus their dead money hit.