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Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after Steven Nelson’s release

As a big contract comes off the books, how much space do the Steelers have under the $182.5 million salary cap?

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It seems like just yesterday...

I can’t even use that line again.

What can I say? The Steelers are continuing to make moves which makes updating the salary cap necessary for those following along closely. I’m just keeping a running list over the last couple of weeks, and it will not offend me in the slightest bit if you simply skip ahead to the listed numbers.

For those looking for an explanation, the Steelers granted Steven Nelson his release on Tuesday. Nelson had the Steelers’ fourth highest salary cap number for the 2021 season at $14.42 million. By releasing Nelson, the Steelers are carrying $6.17 million in dead money for 2021 but saving Nelson’s $8.25 million salary. After factoring in displacement, the Steelers have gained $7.59 million on their 2021 salary cap with Nelson’s release.

Now 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: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
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
Tyler Simmons: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Joe Haeg: Reported $1.5 million; After displacement: -$0.84 million
Miles Killebrew: No definitive report
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $9.5 million


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

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $8,692,586 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.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $10,081,703 under the cap. Spotrac does not have either McCloud’s or Finney’s contracts, hence why their number is a little higher.

The one contract still missing is Miles Killebrew, which is estimated to be a veteran minimum deal. The last salary in the top 51 for the Steelers was at $780,000, but with another player sliding up with the release of Nelson it is back to $660,000. Either way Killebrew will hopefully not add a significant amount to the 2021 salary cap.

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 now have a lot more breathing room under the salary cap, at least for now. Other moves could still be on the horizon as the Steelers have plenty more to do to shape their 2021 roster. It might not be long before you hear from me again as things continue to change.