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If the Steelers can clear the cap space, what’s the best way to spend it?

After the reported price tag for teams to add J.J. Watt, how would the Steelers best use that kind of money if it were to become available?

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

On Thursday, it was reported by ESPN’s Diana Russini that J.J. Watt received a number of offers to join various NFL franchises. With many Steelers’ fans hoping to see all three brothers playing in the Steel City, seeing a price tag of $15 million per season pretty much solidified the fact the Steelers are out of the running.

On seeing this number, my first thought would be if the Steelers were going to spend this amount of money per season on a player, would J.J. Watt be the best choice?

First of all, before we get going too far, just because these numbers are the average salary per year it does not mean that would be the salary cap it for 2021. With most multi-year contracts, the first year of the deal counts significantly less as the Steelers pay out a large portion of the first year salary as a signing bonus. So even though the figure of $15 million per year is what we will go by, it doesn’t mean the Steelers would need to clear that much in cap space.

For example, if the Steelers were to sign a player such as J.J. Watt to a three-year deal where the first year is the league minimum salary along with a signing bonus to get up to $15 million and then a base salary of $15 million each season after, the cap hit for 2021 would be under $6 million. I’m not saying this is the type of contract that would be signed and it would be structured in this way, I was merely using it as an example. If it’s a contract for more years, it would be even less this season. If it were only a two-year deal, it would be over $8 million on this year salary cap.

Now that we have an understanding of how the financials could possibly be, the biggest question would be if the Steelers could clear up enough salary cap space to sign a player, would J.J. Watt be the best option?

Instantly, two other players who played in Pittsburgh in 2020 come to mind. Would the Steelers be better off spending the money it would take to sign the eldest Watt brother and using it to keep Bud Dupree in town? Chances are, it would be somewhat equivalent of a financial obligation. Granted J.J. Watt is a former two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five time All-Pro while Dupree has yet to make a Pro Bowl in the NFL, Watt is set to turn 32 next month and may have his best playing days behind him. Additionally, how well does J.J. Watt fit into the Steelers defense along with players such as Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt who are already commanding significant salaries? Would the Steelers be better off shoring up another position?

To go to the other side of the ball, would it be better to hold onto wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with the money it would take to sign a player like J.J. Watt? Do the Steelers need to spend the additional funds on defense or would they be better off shoring up the offense by retaining the leader of the Steelers wide receiver room last season?

There’s also the option of spending the money on a different outside free agent to come in and help the Steelers. Is there anyone in particular for that price tag that Steelers fans would rather see them bring in other than going with J.J. Watt?

Or is the other option of signing multiple players at lesser salaries the best route to go? Should Steelers be replacing quantity rather than making a big “quality” splash?

Of course, this is all speculation as any deal with J.J. Watt would likely be at a discounted rate in order to play with his brothers. But since there was a number floated out there of what it might take, I just wanted to get the pulse of Steelers’ Nation as to whether or not they should explore this option versus others they have.

So what do you think? Who would be the best player for the Steelers to sign if they were able to free up this much money? Make sure you vote on the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.


If the Steelers were able to free up the cap space to sign a $15 million per year player, who should it be?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    J.J Watt
    (234 votes)
  • 34%
    Bud Dupree
    (677 votes)
  • 16%
    JuJu Smith-Schuster
    (315 votes)
  • 6%
    A different free agent
    (130 votes)
  • 30%
    Multiple less-expensive options
    (593 votes)
1949 votes total Vote Now