New out of the Steel City this week is that multiple members of the Pittsburgh Steelers restructured their contracts. The Steelers were well over the salary cap and so the Steelers front office and players had to come together and get creative to re-work several contracts and get this team back in the black. But with a move like this there can be a downside that fans don’t think about right away.
The Steelers who restructured were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Lawrence Timmons. It is presumed that linebacker LaMarr Woodley and possibly fellow linebacker James Harrison are next on the list to have their contracts tweaked. These sorts of moves are basically the financial version of slight of hand. The Move is moved from base salary to bonus money in order to make it appear as if the player is taking a cut in pay when in reality it’s simply a shift from what designation the money comes from.
But what this does is it keeps these back loaded contracts in play, and the inevitable massive cap hits waiting down the line. The plan is to groom young players to come in and replace those with these bloated salaries and those players can be released knowing that their spot is going to be in good hands. But if you look at the positions who had players restructure, quarterback, inside linebacker, outside linebacker and wide receiver, these are not positions the Steelers have much in the way of depth. This means that for the next couple of seasons this team has a window to win, and build up some depth via the NFL draft. But we’ve seen it happen like this before. A team continues to cook the books with their high paid veterans, miss on a few draft picks and the next thing you know those vets have to be retained with their exorbitant salaries due to lack of replacements.
If I am running the Steelers, I focus this draft on bolstering the talent behind these players that restructured to try and improve their leverage on the future when the time comes to pay. The window for these Steelers might be closing, and so the time to plan for the future is now.