Pittsburgh Steelers in Salary Cap Hell

By Curt Popejoy
James Harrison
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 NFL season isn’t even over yet, but it appears as if there are going to be some real problems with the Pittsburgh Steelers and how they are going to manage the salary cap for the 2013 season. The Steelers are always notorious for pushing it to the limit and getting creative to make things work, but this looks more than a little bleak.

I ran across an article earlier this week from the “capologist” at Steelers Depot here, that broke down the current salary cap situation and while it was incredibly informative it was also more than a little bleak.

According to the article, assuming the 7 Steelers on the roster who are either restricted free agents or exclusive rights free agents are tendered, it brings the grand total of players under contract going into the off-season at 42, but the salary cap number at $137 million which is $18 million over the cap.

By my calculations this would leave the following players still not under contract.

Quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich

Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and David Johnson

Wide receivers Plaxico Burress  and Mike Wallace

Offensive linemen Max Starks, Ramon Foster, Doug Legursky, and Greg Warren

Tight End Leonard Pope

Defensive Lineman Casey Hampton

Linebackers Larry Foote and Brandon Johnson

Defensive backs Will Allen, Justin King, Ryan Mundy and Keenan Lewis

Now, I have a lot of faith in Director of Business & Football Administration Omar Khan but this is going to take some work. As I said I don’t profess to be a salary cap expert, but all those players under contract right now need to understand that if they are making a big fat salary, you may be asked to take a pay cut. Contracts will be re-structured, and doing a quick scan of the roster and the salary cap numbers now, 4 names really stuck out to me.

First is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The trick last year was to turn a huge chunk of his base into a bonus, and I expect them to do the same again this year. Yes, it’s robbing Peter to save Paul, and eventually they’ll have to deal with some massive cap hits but for this year it might be the only option.

The next is a trio of linebackers. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley are all in a position to the same base to bonus shuffle and free up even more cap space for this season. I obviously don’t have exact numbers, but I’m sure someone smarter than me can give you the hard figures, but all 3 of these contracts jumped out at me.

How much can it save? I ran this idea past a person who gets this more than me, and they guessed around $16 million. Wouldn’t fix the entire problem and wouldn’t account for the rest of the players not under contract, but it would be a start to begin to dig out of this hole. Should be fascinating to track how Khan works his magic on this one.

Come follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for more football ramblings.



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