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Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation following Mason Rudolph’s extension

The Steelers locked in their backup quarterback for an extra year, but it cost them some salary cap space in 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Just before the start of the 2021 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced a one-year extension for backup quarterback Mason Rudolph which keeps him under contract through the 2022 season. Currently the only quarterback with a contract beyond 2021 with the Steelers, they will also have the option of offereing a Restricted Free Agent tender to Dewayne Haskins for next season. But this may be putting the cart before the horse as Haskins must first make the 2021 roster.

Getting back to Rudolph, his one-year extension dropped his 2021 base salary from $1,014,801 to $920k according to overthcap.com. Rudolph received a signing bonus of $2.08 million, which when added to his previously prorated bonus of $233,066 which was already counting towards 2021, his new salary cap number for this season is $2,193,066. This was an increase from $1,247,867 which Rudolph originally was going to count against the salary cap.

Just to round out the details of the contract, Rudolph is due a base salary of $3 million in 2022. Once adding on the $1.04 million in prorated bonus, his cap number for 2022 is $4.04 million.

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. With the last update, the Steelers displaced the last $660k salary and have now moved into the $780k group, meaning displacement amounts will be slightly lower.

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

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $10.1 million

Note: Miles Killebrew was the final contract displace a $660k salary. From Cassius Marsh on, the displacement is a $780k salary.


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

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $9,326,387 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above contracts on the books. 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 $11,052,370 under the cap, but they do not have the Rudolph extension at this time. After taking into account Rudolph’s deal, their number should come in the same as mine.

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. One the Steelers begin signing their draft picks,and only the top three of the Steelers draft picks will actually be in the top 51 and will only count less than $2 million on the salary cap. Also remember, the Steelers won’t need this amount until at least May whenever the negotiated contracts become 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. With this in mind, the Steelers have a couple million dollars they could use and can still have enough space come September, and that is without doing any extensions or restructures.

An additional factor to keep down the money needed in September is any player not in the top 51 who makes the team will save the Steelers the difference in salary of the player in the top 51 who is cut. Right now players such as Henry Mondeaux, Antoine Brooks, and Kevin Rader are not in the top 51 according to OTC. After signing their 2021 draft picks, James Pierre, J.C. Hassenauer, and Carlos Davis, along with all of the Steelers’ Day 3 draft picks and undrafted free agents, will be outside the top 51 as well.

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