The Pittsburgh Steelers took another hit to their precarious salary cap position on Tuesday. Did the Steelers sign another free agent?
The Steelers had to make the final installment from their borrowing $3 million against the salary cap in 2011 and another $1.5 million in 2012. This was done for teams to be able to retain high-priced veterans. (I will not go into detail on what transpired with the money as the only article I found was “difficult” to read.)
This was the maximum allowed under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Carryover money was not allowed to be used for repayments. The deduction leaves Pittsburgh with $15,791,718 in cap space left. That amount is still misleading as it does not take all the offseason expenditures into account that will affect the salary cap. (Steeler fans should be thrilled it was only $1 million. The Denver Broncos, LA Rams, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins took the full $4.5 million brunt in 2017.)
... $4.5M in cap space that the team was permitted to borrow in 2011-2012 against future years' caps.— Ian Whetstone (@IanWhetstone) March 28, 2017
There is no questioning how great Pittsburgh is when it comes to manipulating the cap and finding loopholes. The Steelers work the cap so they are mortgaging their future against the cap and the $4.5 million borrowed against future caps was the start of it. There is no disputing that GM Kevin Colbert has been a wiz with restructuring deals such as Ben Roethlisberger's, or finding free agent gems such as Ross Cockrell. The future always catches up, one way or another. The tax man gets his due. We saw this come to fruition last season with the massive $15 million cap hit Lawrence Timmons incurred. But it turned around and bit us in the rear end this season as we lost our defensive leader to the Miami Dolphins.
Steeler fans were salivating early in February with the prospect of having over $40 million in cap space. That figure came crashing down around their ears with the retention of the many UFA, RFA and EFRA players along with the franchise tag slapped on Le’Veon Bell. Colbert's frugal approach during the free agent period has garnered the ire of Black and Gold fans, but the slow death knell of the Steelers’ cap space is not done.
While the Rule of 51 might apply to the offseason, Pittsburgh still has to account for the 52nd and 53rd players who make up the final roster come September. The additional contracts will be $540,000 each. Along those lines, the Steelers will have a 10-man taxi squad that will eat up another $1 million.
The lifting of Martavis Bryant's year-long suspension has not occurred. Rumblings have not come down that the suspension gets extended and all signs point to him donning a Steeler uniform again in 2017. The budding star WR's contract will deduct another $150,000 from the salary cap. The conclusion of the suspension will cause his salary to take the place of another player who was already counting $540,000 against the cap.
Pittsburgh still has to pay rookies drafted during the upcoming NFL draft. While the Rookie Pool is $5.8 million, only the top four along with any prorated bonus from the remaining three will count against the 2017 cap. According to Over The Cap, this figure will be $1,733,277.
Not done yet!
The Steelers still have to account for $619,200 in offseason workout bonuses. This figure will not be quite that high. Each player on the 90-man roster gets $215 a day for each of the 32 formal workout sessions. Pittsburgh will not carry 90 players every day nor will every player participate during every session. The remainder will be credited toward the salary cap before the start of the season and be used as carryover money.
Carryover money is the portion that a team sets aside in case of injuries during the regular season along with being able to secure practice squad players from being vultured by other teams. This figure has been between $3 million and $3.5 million the past two seasons.
In all reality, Pittsburgh is sitting on $7,828,441 in salary cap space. Whew, that once vaunted $40 million went fast! Do not be too surprised if that space is swallowed up in the offseason with a Stephon Tuitt extension and/or others.