The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2022 league year with a little under $29 million in cap space. This number could slowly disappear as as their business happens, such as a Restricted Free Agent tender for Dwayne Haskins, but there is still more to work with than the Steelers are used to in the weeks leading up to free agency.
The normal practice for the Pittsburgh Steelers is to restructure as many contracts as possible. The Steelers have been known for the last couple seasons to restructure any player with more than one year left on their deal. While in 2021 they employed the use of void years to help manage the salary cap, general manager Kevin Colbert stated the Steelers are not likely to use the practice again.
So what are the Steelers to do if they need some more space with the salary cap? While there is still the possibility of letting a player go, or giving them a contract extension which would lower their cap hit this year, the ‘old reliable’ form of contract restructures may not be the best avenue this offseason. While there are some contracts where it would make sense to save some money, there are others, particularly those that have void years in them from last season, that would actually compound the problem more than it would help.
With all this in mind, here are the five contracts of players who they could restructure without adding void years. Included in the salary cap savings the Steelers would gain by using the maximum amount to restructure but not adding any void years. These are the only contracts on the Steelers where this type of restructure would save more than $300,000, an amount which is fairly insignificant and therefore will not be included.
Maximum savings: $17,223,750
Repercussions: Adds $5,741,250 to the remaining 3 seasons
By doing this restructure, it would put T.J. Watt’s 2023 salary cap number at just under $33 million and the last two years at just under $34 million each. While this isn’t the end of the world, the Steelers might not want to do this practice each season with Watt as he would eventually cost about $50 million for his last season if these restructures continue to pile up. But for this year, Watt’s contract makes the most sense to restructure out of any because it saves a significant amount against the salary cap and has more years to spread out into the future. For this reason, if the Steelers are restructuring anybody this is the one I would do.
Maximum savings: $6,586,667 (pre March 20th)
Repercussions: Adds $3,293,333 to the remaining 2 seasons
While just over $3 million doesn’t seem like a lot to add to the final two years for Cameron Heyward, it puts his salary cap number for each season over $25 million. When looking at those cap numbers for his last two years, the just under $17.5 million Heyward is this year if nothing changes doesn’t seem so bad. For this reason, having Hayward be restructured would kick the can down the road in a very big way for a player who will be 35 the final year of his contract. Additionally, the Steelers would have to restructure Heyward by March 20 when $4.5 million of what they could use will be awarded to him as a signing bonus. While it’s not the ideal situation, this is the other contract besides T.J. Watt they could get away with.
Maximum savings: $5,946,420
Repercussions: Now $10,701,420 in dead money to 2023
While it looks attractive for the Steelers to save almost $6 million by restructuring Stephon Tuitt, he’s not actually under contract beyond 2022. All that remains for Tuitt is three void years on his contract. Therefore every penny that would be saved this season would all come due next season. By doing so, it would be a larger dead money hit the year after he comes off the books then what the Steelers have with Ben Roethlisberger this season. If anything gets done with Tuitt’s contract, it’s probably going to actually add years under salary. Otherwise, it’s better off staying as is for a player who didn’t see the field in 2021.
Maximum savings: $5,936,250
Repercussions: Adds $1,978,750 to the remaining 3 seasons
The biggest issue when it comes to Joe Schobert is if the Steelers want to save close to $6 million on the cap by restructuring him or if they would be better off saving almost $8 million by simply moving on. If the Steelers wanted to give Schobert another year to show what he could do, the restructure would make sense. But that means the Steelers would be paying Schobert $8.75 million for the year which seems a bit much. The other problem with Schobert, much like others, is it would push part of that restructure into a void year which is included at the end of his deal. Even if the Steelers decided to keep Schobert this year under his current contract with a restructure, they can’t have him costing over $13 million on the salary cap the following two seasons unless they got a different level of production. The most desirable thing for Steelers fans if the Steelers want to bring Schobert back for 2022 would be a new deal at a reduced rate.
Maximum savings: $2,598,750
Repercussions: Now $4,698,750 in dead money to 2023
Take everything about Stephon Tuitt‘s explanation and apply it to Cam Sutton in a much smaller amount. Yes, the Steelers could save $2.5 million in the salary cap with Sutton, but every penny would be pushed directly into next year. Therefore, they would more than double the dead money hit they are due to take next season with Sutton. For this amount, it just doesn’t seem worth it.
So there are the five contracts the Steelers could restructure and save a significant amount towards the salary cap in 2022 without adding any void years. Should the Steelers look to restructure all these players? Will all of them still be on the team heading into training camp? Should the Steelers avoid restructuring the contracts that have void years in them? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.