The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into Phase Three of the offseason. With 10 sessions of OTAs followed by three days of mandatory minicamp, the full 90-man roster will come together in the middle of June for the first time of the 2022 season.
Even though the Steelers have their roster together for now, there is still the possibility of additions. In 2021, the Steelers added two more players, one following minicamp and another during the preseason, who wound up as starters for the season. But these are not the only moves the Steelers can make.
As is often the case with the Steelers, negotiations for players who are entering the last year of their contract can take place throughout the offseason. The Steelers have a policy of not negotiating deals during the season, so a self-imposed deadline of the start of the regular season will be the cutoff point for any new contracts.
While there has been much discussion about possible extensions for Minkah Fitzpatrick and Diontae Johnson this offseason, there are some other players on the roster who could lock themselves in with the Steelers beyond 2022. With that in mind, here are the top five players who could surprise Steelers fans and sign an extension prior to Week 1.
For a lot of Steelers fans who pay attention to these things in the offseason, this player is not a surprise. While he hasn’t been discussed as much as the other two players mentioned, Chris Boswell is the most likely candidate on this list to end up with an extension. Additionally, unlike the situation with Minkah Fitzpatrick, saving money against the salary cap may not be the goal when it comes to Boswell‘s new deal.
If the Steelers were to extend Boswell for two more seasons beyond 2022, the Steelers could simply give him a a minimum base salary for 2022 and a $6 million signing bonus, the same he received with his last contract, and the 2022 cap hit would remain relatively the same. Of course, the Steelers could give more of a signing bonus or more years when it comes to Boswell. The bottom line is, it would be wise for the Steelers to lock him in farther into the future.
While it’s unclear at this time exactly where Cameron Sutton is going to fit into the Steelers secondary from a starting cornerback standpoint, he is the only one of the three main players who is in the last year of his contract. Signing a two-year deal last offseason with three void years added on to help with the decreased salary cap in 2021, Cam Sutton is set to count $2.1 million against the Steelers’ salary cap next season while not on the roster. Were the Steelers to extend Sutton, it is my understanding that the $700k each season through 2025 from the void years would simply stay there as a prorated bonus along with whatever else he would have with his deal. So if the Steelers are wanting Sutton beyond this season, getting the deal done now helps to spread out the issue created last offseason.
If the Steelers and Suton were to come to an agreement where he would still get paid the same amount in 2022 that he is set to earn while getting him under contract with a base salary for the next three years, they could actually save over $2 million on the salary cap for 2022. In doing so, Sutton would carry a prorated bonus of $1.4 million for the remaining three years of his contract on top of whatever base salary they would negotiate. To me, the base salary over those next seasons would be the biggest point of negotiation and the ultimate determination of whether or not Sutton would get an extension.
Before you bust out your torches and pitchforks, hear me out for a moment. First of all, I would not even dream of offering Tuitt an extension until he joins the team on the field in full capacity during a minicamp and training camp. If Tuitt is back and appears to be the player that he was before missing the 2021 season, getting him under contract beyond 2022 would not be a bad idea.
First off, Tuitt also has three void years on his contract which kicks in next offseason. If he were to get extended, the $4.755 million which would come due next offseason would be spread out over the other three years should the extension go that far. Additionally, Tuitt’s cap hit could be greatly reduced this year with an extension so much more than it would with the release because of the void years. While releasing Tuitt would only save $4.295 million on the salary cap while carrying close to a $10 million dead cap hit, extending him for three seasons and merely giving him this year’s salary as a signing bonus would save almost $6 million against the cap.
Much like Cam Sutton, the biggest issue with a Tuitt extension would be his base salary for those additional years. Unsure of what the Steelers are going to be getting from Tuitt, even if he appears to be back and better than ever in training camp, it’s still an unknown until he plays in actual regular season games. Perhaps collecting his salary last season while not playing a down could weigh into Tuitt not pressing for above maximum value in an extension. But these are all big hypotheticals and there would be a lot to work out for this to happen.
Do I have to mention the torches and pitchforks again? I know the topic of Derek Watt’s salary is a point of contention among many Steelers fans. The biggest issue with his contract at this time is the amount of dead money the Steelers have pushed forward by restructuring his contract last season, even though it wasn’t for a large amount. But even if the Steelers only added one more year to Watt’s contract and paid him no new money than what he would be set to earn this coming season, it could save an additional $815k. The biggest thing with Watt would be his base salary in additional years and how many years the Steelers would add. For each year the Steelers would add on, the more cap savings for 2022.
As for the subject of paying a fullback this amount, make sure you check out the upcoming episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast this Thursday.
Offering an extension to Joe Haeg is more of a “take it or leave it” type of situation. Going into his seventh NFL season, Haeg is the most years of service of any offensive lineman on the Steelers roster. Showing he can fulfill the swing tackle position as well as play guard if needed, the Steelers might not want to head into the 2023 offseason with any questions about Haeg’s future with the team. While it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the Steelers to do so, it also wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were to just play out the last year of his contract.
So there are the five most likely players other than Minkah Fitzpatrick or Diontae Johnson who could sign a contract extension before the start of the 2022 regular season. Even though there are more players that are entering the last year of their deal, such as Devin Bush, Mason Rudolph, and Tyson Alualu, these three players didn’t make the list for various reasons. Devin Bush would have no reason to sign an extension at this time after the Steelers did not exercise his fifth-year option as his entire 2022 contract is already fully guaranteed. Mason Rudolph is unlikely to want to sign with the Steelers with their current quarterback situation unless a lot would change and be much more in focus in his favor by the end of the preseason. As for Tyson Alualu, the factor of age and coming off of an injury would make a deal before he plays another game pretty unlikely.
So what do you think? Do you believe any of these players listed above will get a contract extension? While I am one who is under the impression that Minkah Fitzpatrick will sign an extension and Diontae Johnson will not, feel free to give your opinion on those two players as well.