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How the Steelers 2023 draft class affects this year’s salary cap

Now that the exact draft position is known for each Steelers selection, their impact towards the 2023 salary cap can be accurately estimated.

NFL Combine - Portraits Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 salary cap, there are a lot of factors that still need to be included by the time the season rolls around this fall. Some of the items that will be needed in September will be the salary for the 52nd and 53rd player on the roster as currently only the top 51 players count towards the salary cap. Additionally, the Steelers will need to have money set aside to pay their practice squad as well as the additional pay for if any of these players are elevated for a game throughout the season. And of course, the Steelers must carry some extra cash into the season in case they have to sign new players as others land on the Reserve/Injured List or are released.

One of the factors which goes into the NFL salary cap which still does not have to be accounted for but is now on the horizon is the signing of the 2023 rookie class. While technically none of these players count on the Steelers’ salary cap until their contract is signed, how much they count for the cap their first season is much more clear since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. In fact, websites such as (OTC) calculate the rookie cap numbers for every draft pick down to the individual dollar.

The biggest factor when it comes to the salary of players selected in the draft is where they were taken. The dollar amount changes for every draft pick as they go with the exception of the compensatory picks which are all the same amount within each round. For example, the Steelers moving up three spots in the first round has a difference in salary of $291,761 according to OTC. As the draft continues on, the difference in salary for every pick becomes less and less. Just to show how much to change happens over the draft, the Steelers moving back 13 spots in the third round saved $28,548 and moving back 12 spots in the fourth round only saved them $18,803 compared to their original slotted draft position.

So now that all the draft positions have been selected, exactly how much each player is expected to count this year is now known. While the total value of all the picks comes in at $9,765,785 according to OTC, that is not how much they will count on the salary cap. Only players who land in the top 51 will have their salary count at this time, and it will only count as much as it costs above the salary of the player who drops out of the top 51. So it’s only the difference in salary that it actually raises the salary cap number, which is also known as roster displacement.

The way things are set up for the Steelers offseason at this time, The salaries that are split across being in the top 51 and being displaced lower are at $940k. There are currently seven players with a salary of $940k who are in the top 51 at this time according to OTC with the only unknown salary being that of Chandon Sullivan. So when looking at how much each player will cost above the player replaced, the $940k is the amount of the salary of the player moved out of the top 51.

With that in mind, the Steelers only have their top four draft picks who are projected to land in the top 51 once they sign their contracts. The contracts of Nick Herbig, Cory Trace, and Spencer Anderson will land outside the top 51. For the same reason, any of the Steelers undrafted free agents who are signed will also not land in the top 51 salaries. If those players do not make the roster, their signing bonuses will get transferred into dead money, but that does not need to occur until after they don’t make the team. When the Steelers cut down their 90-man roster, there will also likely be players from the top 51 who are released and therefore the differences between the dead money from some of these players against the savings from a higher salary player will likely cancel out. Exactly how these things will fall cannot be determined at this time and therefore not taken into consideration.

As for the four players whose salary will affect the Steelers salary cap once they sign, they are estimated to be as follows according to OTC:

Broderick Jones: $3,144,118 cap hit; after displacement: $2,204,118
Joey Porter Jr.: $1,802,023 cap hit; after displacement: $862,023
Keeanu Benton: $1,364,385 cap hit; after displacement: $424,385
Darnell Washington: $985,347 cap hit; after displacement: $45,347

Total salary cap cost after displacement: $3,535,873

Earlier this offseason, I estimated the Steelers draft class costing $3.4 million based on their draft positions. So after the Steelers moving around, and the fact that I rounded up previously just to be safe, Steelers draft class comes in slightly higher than anticipated by moving up three spots in Round 1.

For those that follow my salary cap updates, I will not be adding this total to how much the Steelers have for 2023 at this time. As I’ve said before, accounting for certain things the Steelers will have to spend money on is good to remember, but looking at how much the Steelers actually have in cap space is better served by looking at the moves when they occur. For that reason, the salary cap will be updated as the Steelers 2023 draft class, and any other added player who lands in the top 51 salaries, have their salaries announced.