The Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to finish solving all of their salary cap problems as they march forward to the start of the new 2012 league year and already Steeler Nation is worried about 2013. The worries are centered around all of the contract restructuring that has been done over the last two seasons.
Since the 2011 season ended the Steelers have restructured the contracts of LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Ike Taylor and Willie Colon. These restructures consisted of base salary money being converted to signing bonus and prorated out over the remaining years left on each of the players contract that was restructured. In the case of Woodley and Timmons, their 2012 roster bonuses were also included with a good portion of each of their base salaries and turned into signing bonuses. There are likely to be a few more restructures on the way as the agents of both Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison have said that their clients are open to restructuring as well.
Now back to the main concern of what this is doing to future years, especially 2013. As we sit here on February 21st, the Steelers currently have 47 players under contract for 2013. I should note that 19 of these players are the ones that were signed to futures contracts after the 2011 season ended. Most them will be long gone by the time the 2012 season gets here, but we shall include them in this exercise just the same. The current cap commitment to those 47 players is almost $132 million and that is also 4 players short of being 51, for the Rule of 51. We will add in another $2 million as a buffer to account for those spots which brings us a Rule of 51 total of $134 million.
Now before everyone gets off of their computers and starts heading for the closest bridge, those totals also include nearly $10.48 million worth of cap hit provided by Chris Kemoeatu and Hines Ward. Please raise your hand if you believe either of those two will be on the roster in 2013. We will subtract $9.48 million from that $10.48 million to allow for the salaries of their two replacements. So now we have a Rule of 51 number of about $124.5 million.
I am sure you have caught on that we do not have a 2012 and 2013 draft class yet, but those players will replace the players at the bottom of the 51 and that will increase the Rule 51 total slightly by the cost difference in base salaries and whatever signing bonus proration that there is. The 2013 Rule of 51 total also does also not included whatever restricted free agents that will be tendered next year. Keep in mind though that for every one of those that are tendered, it knocks off another from the bottom of the 51. That number also does not included any dead money that will be accumulated between now and that time.
If we add back in the $9.48 million that we took away earlier because of the subtraction of both Kemoeatu and Ward and use it as a giant buffer for displacement cost of draft picks, tenders and dead money, we are back at the $134 million number. I estimate that the 2013 cap number will remain fairly flat and come in at about $127 million (just a guess), should that indeed be the number, the Steelers would be about $7 million or so over based on the above projections and that is a much more rosier picture than the one the Steelers had facing them following the 2011 season. Even if we added in another $2 million buffer, that would put them at just $9 million over my projected cap number of $127 million.
That would mean that they would be basically just a few restructures and a few contract terminations away from getting cap compliant next March. The magic year is 2014, as the new television contracts kick in and the salary cap should jump drastically. By that time the Steelers will have made the jump to a much younger roster and should be in great shape cap wise. Hopefully this quick and dirty exercise will ease your mind about the 2013 Steelers salary cap situation.