The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the offseason roughly $22 million over the cap (per Spotrac’s NFL Team Roster & Salary Cap Manager).
Pittsburgh has several moves that need to be made if they want to be a legitimate contender in a very deep and congested AFC, and they need to free up money to make said moves. Here are seven moves the Steelers can make to free up cap space
1. Release WR Allen Robinson
This is as close to a guarantee as there is for the Steelers. Robinson was a non-factor in 2023. He caught just 34 passes for 280 yards and didn’t score a touchdown. Cutting Robinson would save Pittsburgh $10 million. It’s not a matter of if this will happen, but when.
2. Release C Mason Cole
Cole was amongst the worst offensive lineman in football this season. The Steelers should, and likely will, look to upgrade at center in the draft or free agency. Cutting him loose will save the Steelers $4.75 million.
3. Trade OT Chuks Okorafor
Okorafor said he wants to be a starter, and that he probably wouldn’t have re-signed with the Steelers if he knew how this season was going to play out.
Chuks Okorafor says he regrets signing in Pittsburgh, he was benched mid season and says he probably wouldn’t have resigned had he known he’d he benched.— Steelersonly (@steelersonlyy) January 18, 2024
Okorafor wants to be a starter in the NFL and isn’t sure what his future holds. He has one year left on his deal with the… pic.twitter.com/qT4UEDwPFT
Okorafor is talented enough where they can get a draft pick in exchange for him from a team in need of an offensive tackle. Trading or releasing him would save the Steelers $8.75 million.
4. Release S Keanu Neal
The Steelers have more than enough safety options with the likes of Eric Rowe possibly being brought back on a cheap deal, as well as Minkah Fitzpatrick and Damontae Kazee as starters and Trenton Thompson as a much cheaper backup. Releasing Neal would save the Steelers $2.25 million.
5. Release QB Mitch Trubisky
Trubisky is one of the worst signings in recent franchise history. The Steelers got next to nothing out of the former No. 2 overall pick. Mike Tomlin made it known that competition will be brought in at quarterback, and it makes no sense keeping Trubisky around for how much he costs. Cutting ties with Trubisky would save Pittsburgh just under $3 million.
6. Release/trade CB Patrick Peterson
Peterson didn’t come close to living up to expectations for the Steelers. He was consistently beat in coverage as a cornerback. The Steelers would save $6.85 million by getting rid of Peterson. While he improved his play when he moved back to safety, the money Pittsburgh can save by moving on is worth doing so. If they can get a day three pick for the future Hall of Famer, then great. If not, an outright release will have to do.
7. Restructure the contract of EDGE Alex Highsmith
Restructures will have to come to free up a lot of money. Doing so with younger, elite talents is much less of a risk than kicking the can down the road on paying older players. Highsmith’s production shows that he’ll be very good for a long time, so the Steelers shouldn’t have to worry about his level of play falling off. By restructuring his deal, they’ll save roughly $7.3 million against the cap.
8. Restructure the contract of EDGE T.J. Watt
Basically copy and paste what I said about Highsmith and apply it to Watt here. The Steelers know they will get the best out of Watt and can feel confident on knowing his production won’t fall off. It’ll make his cap hit in the future a bit larger, but they can tinker with that as well when the time comes by converting some of that money into roster bonuses. Regardless, a restructure would save the Steelers just under $10 million in 2024.
In totality, all eight of these moves would free up roughly $52.8 million for the Steelers, and give them about $30.5 million to work with in free agency.