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How much salary cap space can the Steelers gain in 2022 with contract restructures?

Even though the Steelers aren’t currently up against the salary cap to start the 2022 season, there could always be need for more space.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a somewhat unfamiliar place going into the 2022 NFL offseason. Usually either right up against or already over the projected salary cap, the Steelers are one of the teams under the projected $208.2 million salary cap which is yet to be made official by the NFL.

Usually in the business of having to cut players as salary cap casualties as well as restructure contracts in order to be cap compliant, the Steelers are not as pressed this season as they are currently well under the projected salary cap.

How far under the cap are the Steelers?

It is estimated that the Steelers are currently just over $31 million under the NFL‘s 2022 salary cap. This number is given by the experts at (OTC) and is one of a few very reliable sources on the matter. With the Steelers having some rollover from 2021, this is the number that would be deemed cap space.

But wait, there’s more!

The very same experts at recently set up a website in which they calculated where teams could be in regards to the 2022 salary cap based on restructuring contracts. So, what did OTC report for the Steelers? Here are some of the numbers:

Effective Cap Space: $27,868,681

So why is there a difference between a team’s salary cap and their effective cap space? This number is calculated by OTC and it represents the maximum cap space a team will have when it signs at least 51 players to its roster for that season. The reason this is different for the Steelers is because of the number of players they have who are technically in their top 51 salaries but will not be there once their void years officially kick in. Once this happens, their money goes over has dead money and they will no longer occupy a spot in the top 51. These players for the Steelers include Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Eric Ebron. Once these things get worked out, the Steelers will have the above number more as their usable salary cap according to OTC.

Simple Restructures: $36,365,143

The Steelers could save almost another $10 million against the salary cap if they were to do a simple restructure for every available player. This is how OTC describes their method for determining this:

A simple restructure converts payments into prorated signing bonuses within the confines of the remainder of the contract. Teams typically have the ability to unilaterally execute simple restructures without any action necessary from the player.

Remember, these restructures do not pay the player anymore or any less. All it would simply be doing is taking money, paying it to the player upfront, and having it not all count on this year’s salary cap. It is important to remember that this money will all eventually come due, just not in 2022.

Also, this method of restructure can only be done on players with contracts extending beyond 2022 as a restructure gives no salary cap relief otherwise.

Maximum Restructures: $60,512,157

In order to do a maximum restructure for each player, this is done by adding void years to the contract in order to stretch out the money as far as possible. This is how OTC explained this procedure:

A maximum restructure increases the amount of cap space via conversion into prorated signing bonuses by either extending the contract or by adding void years to a contract, years that do not extend the contract but are only used as placeholders for the proration. Maximum restructures are typically considered a renegotiation of the contract that requires the player’s consent to execute.

While they did not say it on the site, I’m assuming that this number would even include restructuring players on their rookie deals and players in the last year of their contract, but it might not be the case as this is not a typical practice.

Although the Steelers used void years in contracts for the first time in 2021, I feel it is a practice that they did mainly because of the reduction of the salary cap. While they still may continue to use this occasionally, using it across-the-board for every player is simply unrealistic.

As for doing the simple restructures, this is a practice at the Steelers use time and time again. So if they feel like they need more salary cap space, look for the Steelers to do some restructures of contracts especially for players such as Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt.

Additionally, these numbers above do not represent the salary cap savings the Steelers would have if they make cuts based on players salary versus performance. Although the Steelers do not need to get rid of any players in order to get under the salary cap, there are players that may cost more than what their play on the field of dictates. A couple examples here would be players such as Joe Schobert ($7,834,000 available in cap savings) and Zach Banner ($5 million available on savings) who the Steelers could release simply because they are not worth their contract. While this is possible, the Steelers could also simply give a new contract to these players and would likely reduce their cap number for 2022.

The beautiful thing about doing these restructures, they do not have to be done by the beginning of the new league year on March 16. The Steelers could choose to wait and restructure certain players throughout the offseason and into training camp in order to use money if they find that they need to do so. The only exceptions would be Cam Heyward and Joe Haeg, who are both due roster bonuses on March 20 and March 21 respectively, as the Steelers would gain more out of a restructure before their bonus comes then they would if they would wait until after.

If you are interested in more information regarding the Steelers salary cap, particularly when it comes to players and where the Steelers could get the most value should they be released, look for upcoming articles next week which break players down into categories on who would give the both the least and most savings against the salary cap.