The moves came fast and furious throughout the afternoon on Monday, March 15 as the legal tampering period kicked off for the 2021 NFL season. While some teams were big players, others were not. In typical Steelers fashion, the only move made by Pittsburgh was retaining one of their own players.
Unfortunately, the Steelers lost two starters from the 2020 season on Day 1 of the free agency signing period. Bud Dupree signed a five-year contract with the Tennessee Titans at $16.5 million per year while Matt Feiler agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers for three years at $7 million per season.
On the positive side of things, the Steelers retained cornerback Cameron Sutton for a two year, $9 million contract which will count $2.75 million against the 2021 salary cap. After accounting for roster displacement, Sutton only added $2.09 million onto the Steelers salary cap for 2021.
So where do the Steelers currently stand with the 2021 salary cap? Before free agency kicked off, the Steelers were little more than $6 million under the salary cap. Since then, the Steelers have signed wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud and offensive lineman B.J. Finney as well as Sutton. Unfortunately, the numbers of Finney’s contract have not yet been reported so they cannot be taken into account at this time. As for McCloud, his salary is believed to be $1 million which will count as $340k towards the salary cap after factoring in roster displacement.
As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.
Using the numbers for Cam Sutton and Ray-Ray McCloud and how they have increased the Steelers salary cap, they should be sitting right around $3.5 million in cap space. But what do the salary cap websites say?
According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $2,775,086 under the salary cap. OTC has both Sutton’s and McCloud’s contracts on the books, but for some reason they have the number lower than it should be. Even when adding up the Steelers’ top 51 salaries and dead money owed this year, their own numbers don’t make sense to come in where they are. The only explanation is they are taking into account B.J. Finney’s deal even though it isn’t known at this time and they don’t have it listed.
Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $3,836,703 under the cap. Spotrac has Cam Sutton’s contract, but does not have McCloud’s or Finney’s. If McCloud’s deal truly is for $1 million, the $340k cost after roster displacement moves the Steelers cap room to $3,496,703, which should be the case based on the two moves the Steelers have made.
When it comes to Finney’s salary cap number, it will cost the Steelers however much above $660k the contract was agreed-upon. Until this number is released, an exact salary cap amount cannot be determined. If I were to guess, I don’t see Finneys deal costing much more than McClouds if the Steelers played their cards right.
While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Following the NFL draft, the Steelers will begin signing their draft picks and are estimated to need $3.2 million in cap space once figuring roster displacement. But remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May. Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year.
So the Steelers have a little bit of space at the moment, about $3.5 million, but it’s not much in order to go make any big splash in free agency. While there are plenty of things they can do to help their salary cap number, such as extensions, restructures, or releases, the Steelers still have plenty of work to do with the players already under contract in order to be in the best salary cap situation for the 2021 season.