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Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster

After their latest move, how much space do the Steelers have under the $182.5 million salary cap?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It seems like yesterday I was updating the Steelers salary cap situation.

Oh, wait. It was.

On Friday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers managed to re-sign wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Even though he received higher offers from both the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, Smith-Schuster is returning to Pittsburgh on a one-year deal for $8 million. While it looks like this could have really hurt the Steelers 2021 salary cap, the Steelers once again used void years in the contract in order to keep a reasonable salary cap hit for 2021 at the cost of pushing over half the money into 2022.

By adding four void years, the Steelers were able to pay Smith-Schuster a $1 million base salary and a $7 million signing bonus which was divided up over five seasons. Therefore, Smith Schuster‘s cap hit for 2021 is only $2.4 million. After taking into account roster displacement, it’s down to $1.74 million.

The Steelers also reportedly made another low-profile signing Friday morning when they signed wide receiver Tyler Simmons after seeing him catch passes at George’s pro day. Simmons spent several weeks on the Texans practice squad in 2020. Based on this, even though the numbers have not been announced, I’m assuming that Simmons’ contract will not land him in the top 51 for Steelers.

Another item of note when it comes to the Steelers salary cap was the report of cornerback Steven Nelson being permitted to seek a trade. Should the Steelers either trade or release Nelson, it would save them $8.25 million before roster displacement. After displacement, if Nelson moves on from the Steelers it would save them $7.59 million on the salary cap. Since this has not happened yet, it will not be included in any numbers for the Steelers for now.

So after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster, 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 number has fluctuated due to various moves.

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
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Reported $2.4 million; After displacement: -$1.74 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $3 million


So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $2,270,086 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 $3,331,703 under the cap. Spotrac does not have either McCloud’s or Finney’s contracts, hence why their number is a little higher.

As I’ve been saying all week, we still don’t know the numbers of B.J. Finney’s contract. I’m hoping the number is only around $0.2 million after roster displacement.

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 managed to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster and not have to immediately make a corresponding move to stay under the salary cap. Other moves will be on the horizon as the Steelers need to have more than $3 million available to make any more significant deals.