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Updating the Steelers salary cap situation after signing some of their own free agents

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The Pittsburgh Steelers’ salary cap situation isn’t good, but that can change.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers

The NFL’s new league year, and free agency period, are a mere five-plus weeks away. There is no such thing as an offseason anymore for diehard fans. The Steelers have signed one of their exclusive-rights free agents (ERFA), four of their restricted free agents (RFAA) and a majority of their 2017 practice squad members to 2018 contracts.

If we stroll over to our friends at Over the Cap, fans can see where the Steelers stand regarding 2018 salary cap space. Not going to sugarcoat it: It is not a pretty sight.

Fans who were spoiled in 2017 by Pittsburgh sitting on over $20 million in cap space, and are expecting something similar this year, are in for a big surprise.

-$4,130,776.

That minus is not a typo; that is where the Steelers currently sit regarding the salary cap. The Steelers have to become compliant with the cap by March 14. Before you go running for a Steel City brew to help ease your shock at this situation, you need to know a few things.

What is included:

  • 53 players currently under contract. The Rule of 51 is in effect. This means only the highest 51 salaries are accounted for. (I hate using the Rule of 51. By the start of the season you have to accommodate 53 players, so why start out with 51?).
  • The 2017 rollover money. This is just money that Pitt did not use in 2017 that counts towards cap space in 2018.
  • The cap’s projected approximate $10 million increase.
  • Dead cap space accrued from 2017 roster casualties.
  • And, finally, current players who will not be with the team in 2018. The big question is — exactly who does will this be?

What is not included:

  • The $5 million needed to sign the Steelers’ rookie draft class.
  • The 52nd and 53rd players on the team that will count against the cap starting in the first week of the 2018 NFL season. (This will be a hit of at minimum $1.1 million.)
  • RFA and EFRA contracts that have not been given out yet, but will be.
  • Le’veon Bell?
  • Other free agents who will be signed.
  • Pitt’s 10-man taxi squad. (Approximately $2 million)
  • Cap space designated as carryover for the 2018 regular season and 2019. (Approximately $3.5 million.)
  • $250,000 for pay for 90 players to attend OTAs. (approximately)
  • Only $4 million has to be cleared up by March 14, but Pitt has to clear $16 million by the start of the season without even signing any free agents, ERFA or other RFA playes.

There you go, Steeler Nation. That’s a bleak picture, right? Well, not so fast. There are different ways to fix any cap situation. GM Kevin Colbert has done a fantastic job of kicking that can down the road for years, and allowing Pittsburgh to field a solid team. Will he be able to pull it off again this year?

In the second part of this two-part series, I’ll show you not only how I would make Pittsburgh not only compliant, but actually create $40 million in total cap savings.