As the Pittsburgh Steelers are finishing up the first week of free agency, there are constantly updates coming on players salaries and exact details of contracts which tweak the 2021 salary cap numbers. With the numbers continuing to change, it’s sometimes difficult to have an updated grasp on exactly how much salary cap space the Steelers have. With some updated numbers on the salaries of Cameron Sutton, Zach Banner, and Chris Wormley coming Friday morning, here is a look at some of the changes and where the Steelers currently stand.
The Steelers retained cornerback Cameron Sutton for a two year, $9 million contract which reportedly would count $2.75 million against the 2021 salary cap. But a new report from Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle has Sutton’s contract containing three void years.
Cameron Sutton (Steelers) five years,last three void automatically if on roster 5th day after 2022 lg yr Super Bowl, $9M, $3.5M signing bonus, salaries $1M, $4.5M— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 19, 2021
By doing so, Sutton’s $3.5 million signing bonus does not count $1.75 million dollars in 2021 but instead is $0.7 million, dropping his salary cap number for 2021 to $1.7 million. After roster displacement, Sutton’s contract only added $1.04 million to the Steelers’ salary cap.
It was originally reported that Zach Banner’s contract was for two years at $9.775 million. New numbers have Banner’s base salary in 2021 slightly lower. So instead of the original $3.15 million cap hit for 2021, the new reported number is $2.875 million with a $6.625 million cap hit in 2022.
The Steelers also signed defensive tackle Chris Wormley to a new deal on Thursday. According to Wilson, Wormley’s contract is for two years and $4.5 million with a 2021 salary cap hit of $1.6 million.
Chris Wormley (Steelers) two years, $4.5M, $1.2M signing bonus, salaries $1M, $2.3M— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 19, 2021
So after these adjusted numbers, 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 the three players already described above. Unfortunately, the numbers of Finney’s contract have not yet been reported so they cannot be taken into account at this time. The Steelers also made a cap-saving move by releasing Vince Williams this week.
To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to 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.
Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2021.
Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $6 million
Ray-Ray McCloud: Reported $1 million salary; After displacement: -$0.34 million
B.J. Finney: No report
Cam Sutton: New report of $1.7 million; After displacement: -$1.04 million
Zach Banner: Reported $2.875 million; After displacement: -$2.215 million
Vince Williams: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.34 million
Chris Wormley: Reported $1.6 million; After displacement: -$0.94 million
Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $4.8 million
So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?
According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $4,010,086 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above 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 $5,071,703 under the cap. Spotrac does not have either McCloud’s or Finney’s contracts, hence why their number is a little higher.
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 Finney’s deal costing much more than McCloud’s 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 $4.8 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.