As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to shape their 2023 90-man roster, just like every other NFL team they must make sure they are adhering to the salary cap rules. Fortunately for the Steelers, they have lots of wiggle room at this time before the added expenses come around at the start of the regular season. Until rosters are cut down to 53 players, only the top 51 salaries count towards the 2023 salary cap.
With the Steelers current salary cap space based off of these top 51 players, any player not in the top 51 who makes the roster will give some salary cap relief even if it’s only a small amount. Additionally, the bottom two salaries on the Steelers 5-man roster will count against the cap once that roster is set. So what players could make up these final two spots or knock out others who are currently occupying a slot in the top 51?
First, there needs to be an understanding of where the Steelers currently sit with their top 51 players and the amount of the salaries of those salaries on the threshold. The Steelers currently have 13 players who have a salary cap hit of $940k where some of them are in the top 51 and some of them are not. Exactly which player is up and which one is down is completely irrelevant and will only matter when it comes to who makes the 53.
When looking at the players who are not currently in the top 51 salaries who will likely make the roster and offer some cap relief, the only players in consideration are those currently counting less on the salary cap than $940k. There are no guarantees any of these players land on the 53-man roster, but these six are the most likely candidates.
2023 cap hit: $918,231
The Steelers fourth-round draft pick in 2023, Nick Herbig did not have a salary that landed him in the top 51 and therefore did not take away from the Steelers cap space when he signed his rookie contract. The likelihood of the Steelers moving on from a fourth-round draft pick before even one season is very small. And even though the cap relief is also very small, the Steelers will gain a little more than $20k when Herbig lands a spot on the 53-man roster.
2023 cap hit: $908,806
Tied for the second most special team snaps played in 2022, Connor Heyward is showed his value both as a versatile H-back and a key special teams contributor. It would take something fairly significant for Heyward to fall off the Steelers 53-man roster and his salary coming on the books will save around $30k.
2023 cap hit: $898,089
In the eyes of many Steelers fans, they are still thin at the inside linebacker position. Even if they add another player, getting some action in the last few games of the season in 2022 the Steelers former seventh-round draft pick does have the inside track to make him a team. In doing so, Robinson could add at least another $40k in cap savings.
Calvin Austin III
2023 cap hit: $876,084
After looking at everything that was said about Nick Herbig as a fourth-round draft pick, the applications are close to the same with Steelers wide receiver Calvin Austin. Missing all of 2022 to a foot injury, Austin is in his second NFL season but is really a rookie in the eyes of most fans. For the Steelers to cut ties with a fourth-round draft pick without him appearing in a regular season game would be unlikely, and the more than $60k the Steelers will save with Austin’s contract versus one at the $940k range is fairly certain to happen.
2023 cap hit: $874,000
For the second straight season, Jaylen Warren has a chance to be one of those two players whose salary will completely come on the books by being one of the 52nd or 53rd players. Warren had the lowest salary cap hit of anyone on the Steelers 53-man roster to start the 2022 season and may still be in the bottom two for 2023 depending on if anyone else below him on the list can squeeze on the 53.
Cory Trice Jr.
2023 cap hit: $771,109
Although there is no guarantee at sevent-round draft pick is going to make the roster, Cory Trice does not seem to be the typical seventh-round draft pick. In the eyes of most Steelers fans, he will likely find a spot on the 53-man roster and his biggest fight will be gaining a helmet on game day. If so, Trice is another candidate to grab one of the bottom two spots on the roster in terms of salary cap hit.
Those are the six players currently on the Steelers 90-man offseason roster who are not in the top 51 salaries who have the best chance of making their Week 1 roster. Wile the Steelers other seventh-round draft pick up Spencer Anderson or any of the other UDFA could also be a candidate, their roster status will more likely be worked out through training camp and the preseason.