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Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing 8 draft picks

Only one player from the Steelers’ 2021 draft class remains unsigned.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie Minicamp Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers now have 89 players under contract for the 2021 offseason. The only player remaining is third-round draft pick Kendrick Green who is yet to sign his rookie deal. With the announcement of Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth signing their contracts this week, along with numbers finally coming in for the salary for Arthur Maulet, it’s time to update the Steelers’ salary cap space

First, Arthur Maulet is yet another player who qualifies under the veterans salary benefit. Set to make $990k for 2021, only $850k will count towards the salary cap. With Maulet displacing James Pierre out of the top 51 and his cap hit of $783k, he only counts $67k against the salary cap.

Although Harris signed his contract earlier in the day then Freiermuth, it was the new Steelers tight ends whose numbers came through first. Freiermuth will count just over $1 million on the 2021 salary cap, but displacing Buddy Johnson’s nearly $785k cap hit leaves Freiermuth only adding a little more than $300k against the 2021 cap.

Last, but certainly not least out of the new players whose contracts numbers came through, Najee Harris is set to count $2,372,263 against the 2021 salary cap according to spotrac.com. Harris knocks out the salary from 2020 draftee Carlos Davis from the top 51. After factoring in the displacement, Harris reduces the Steelers salary cap space more than $1.5 million.

Another amount which is being recorded at this time was actually something charged against teams back in April. While not every salary cap website had taken it into account, teams had to put the money on the books for paying their players for offseason workouts. If players do not show up to the workouts, any money not spent will be reimbursed to teams by the middle of August at the latest. For now, this amount comes out at $792k. Knowing that all 90 players did not show up for all 32 days, this number will be lower but exactly how much remains to be seen.

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. The Steelers displaced the last $660k salary and have now moved through the $780k group, meaning displacement amounts will continue to grow lower and vary from player to player.

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, or change from what it previously was, 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: Reported $987,500; After displacement: -$0.3275 million
Steven Nelson: Saved $8.25 million salary; After displacement: +$7.59 million
Cassius Marsh: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Eric Ebron: Reportedly saved $3.904; No roster displacement: +$3.904 million
Tyson Alualu: Reported $2.0375 million; After displacement: -$1.2575 million
Jordan Berry: Reported $950,000; After displacement: -$0.17 million
Kalen Ballage: Reported $920,000; After displacement: -$0.14 million
Rashaard Coward: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Matthew Sexton: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jarvis Miller: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Jamir Jones: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
T.J. Carter: Reported $660k; not in the top 51: -$0
Abdullah Anderson: Reported $780k; not in the top 51: -$0
Vince Williams: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Joshua Dobbs: Reported $900,000; After displacement: -$0.12 million
Mason Rudolph: Reported $2,193,066 cap number; After increase: -$0.945199 million
Dan Moore Jr: Reported $834,475; After displacement: -$0.054475 million
Buddy Johnson: Reported $784,836; After displacement: -$0.004836 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $850,000; After displacement: -$0.067 million
Pat Friermuth: Reported $1,096,033; After displacement: -$0.311197 million
Najee Harris: Reported $2,372,263; After displacement: -$1.568887 million
Offseason Workouts: 90 players x $275/day x 32 days: -$0.792 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $7.3 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displacing a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary. Buddy Johnson was the final contract displacing a $780k salary, so from that point on the contracts will vary which will be displaced.


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

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $8,958,879 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above contracts on the books except for Najee Harris. Once taking into account Harris’s contract, our numbers are very close.

For some time, OTC had the Steelers cap number lower than what I thought it should be. Due to some research by one of the members of the BTSC community (KiwiSteelerFan), he was able to find the discrepancy came in the offseason workout cost. This number ($792k) was taken off the Steelers salary cap with no previous explanation. Now that we know the reason, I went ahead and added it to my salary cap information and now the numbers line up much more reasonably.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $7,921,653 under the cap. The once contract they are missing is that of Arthur Maulet. Also, spotrac does not have the offseason workouts on the books at this time. One last discrepancy comes from where they are counting the prorated signing bonuses of players not in the top 51 toward the salary cap. If adjusting for these things, their number is also about the same as mine. As for those signing bonuses they are counting, they will count toward the salary cap if the player makes the 53-man roster, but ultimately should be a savings as they would be replacing a player with a higher cap number. If the player does not make the team, their signing bonus will count as dead money for 2021 as well as 2022.

As for the Steelers last draft pick, Kendrick Green’s contract will slide into the top 51 and will ultimately bump out Dan Moore Jr’s contract. The ultimate cost after displacement for Green’s contract will be about $52k once it gets made official.

Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $10 million (a very high estimate, with $7 million coming in on the low end) 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.

The Steelers currently have about the right amount of cap space for the season (if looking at the low end) for the time being. If the Steelers were to spend more at this time, they would have to move some things around before September.