An Early Look At The Steelers 2013 Salary Cap Situation

I have had several emails as of late asking about the 2013 salary cap situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I now have time to knock out a post about it.

Several are worried about all of the restructures over the last few seasons and what it has done to 2013. The other worry is that the salary cap will remain flat in 2013, which it likely will.

Let us first start off by assuming the cap remains flat, and to be on the safe side, let\’s go with a round number of $121 million.

Below is the list of players that have the best shot at being on the roster and under contract heading into the new league year along with place holders for 16 more futures players to get us to the Rule of 51 number. Please do not get caught up in the names of the players on the back end as they might change, but overall it shouldn\’t have a huge effect on the overall numbers. Remember, this is a projection.

As you can see, the Rule of 51, based on the players under contract heading into the draft, is roughly $133,679,194.00. Now there will be some dead money to add to that from the undrafted free agents that will be released this year, and to provide a little more of a buffer we will round up to $134 million. That leaves the Steelers a mere $13 million over the cap based on the projections.

As you can see, Mike Wallace is not on this list. If he is signed to a new long-term deal, we can project that his 2013 cap hit will likely be at the most $8 million. That is shooting high, as it is likely to come in under that. Shooting that high would put the Steelers $21 million over.

I do not want to get too far into free agency, but restricted free agents, Emmanuel Sanders, Steve McLendon, Stevenson Sylvester, Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer can all be retained on restricted tenders. Realistically, Sanders and Redman would be the highest of the two. If all five of those players are tendered, we will throw in another $6 million needed, as they would displace the 5 lowest salaries on the 51 as well. That puts the Steelers roughly $27 million over. Now they can\’t be over by the time the new league year roles around and the tendering process takes place, but at least we know about how much needs to be trimmed, if indeed Wallace is signed to a long-term deal.

James Harrison is scheduled to earn a $6.57 base salary in 2013. His cap hit is scheduled to be $10.035 million. I have posted previously that I thought he also had another $3 million in the form of a roster bonus due him, which would have made his cap hit $13.035 million. A source informed me that the $3 million built into his contract is a NLTBE incentive, which stands for not likely to be earned, so thus that $3 million does not count in the numbers. My apologies for that confusion.

Harrison does have $4.93 million left in signing bonus amortization though, so releasing him saves $5.105 million and not $8.105 million like I have previously projected. Once again, that $3 million being a NLTBE instead of a roster bonus, really makes a difference. That being said, I still see him being the big name salary cap casualty next offseason as much as it hurts me to continue to type that. The Steelers have a history of doing this with older linebackers and you can expect Harrison to be a name that will be added to that list.

With Harrison gone that shrinks the number to $22 million over. The $11.6 million base salary of Ben Roethlisberger will be lowered either through another restructure or a contract extension. Dropping his 2013 cap hit by $8 million is a realistic option whichever way the Steelers choose to go. Just as an example, this past offseason they turned $10.7 million of his scheduled base salary into a signing bonus which wound up clearing $8 million in cap space.

That $8 million drops the number now over the cap to $14 million. I have talked previously about how I am certain both LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons will once again be restructured like they were this past offseason. Woodley has a $9 million base salary to work with in 2013 of which $8 million could be turned into a signing bonus and thus clear $6 more million in cap space. Timmons is due a $5.375 million base salary and a $2.5 million roster bonus in 2013. That means there is another $5 million to be saved with him through a simple restructure of turning $4 million of his base salary and his entire roster bonus into a signing bonus.

Those two simple restructures save another $10 million in cap space, so now we are just $4 million over the cap. For those of you thinking cutting Willie Colon is an option, you need to know that he would cost $6.45 million in dead money to do so and thus would only save $1.2 million in cap space. That scenario is not likely to happen unless Colon suffers a career ending injury in 2012. Restructuring his $5.5 million base salary is an option, but one that would be used as a last resort because of his age and injury history.

Regardless of what happens in 2012, Shaun Suisham will not be allowed to count $1.7625 million against the cap in 2013. Assuming he makes it through the 2012 season, releasing him frees up a little over $1 million. That brings the Steelers to $3 million over the cap.

Brett Keisel will be entering his final year under contract and is scheduled to earn a $2.825 million base salary. Cutting him saves that amount. Should he still want to play, he might be asked to slash his base salary down to $1 million. That would save $1.825 million in cap space. We will use that the paycut option and round it up to $2 million being saved being as I have a few buffers built in. That brings the Steelers within $1 million of the $121 million projected cap number.

The only other two players that I see a chance of being a causalities are Ike Taylor and Jerricho Cotchery. Doing so would save $4.1875 million in cap space with Taylor and another $1 million with Cotchery. If that were to happen, both could always be brought back on one-year qualifying contracts prior to the team reporting to training camp. That type of contract would come with reduced caps hit as well.

So now we have the Steelers roughly $4 million under the cap heading into the draft. Per the usual, they will not be big players in free agency, but will instead try to sign a few of their own to one-year qualifying contracts that will barely move the Rule of 51 number. These scenarios, especially the amounts, will not play out exactly as I have them, but it figures to be somewhere in the ballpark.

Signing Wallace to an extension is the biggest unknown in this whole scenario and that unknown carries with it $6 to $8 million roughly in cap space. Once again, this is not a cap hell situation for the Steelers in my opinion and should be a piece of cake for Omar Khan to navigate with very few casualties along the way.


  • Sign Wallace long-term this year
  • Tender 5 restricted free agents
  • Restructure or extend Roethlisberger
  • Restructure Woodley & Timmons
  • Paycut for Keisel or release
  • Release Harrison, Taylor, Cotchery & Suisham
Ben RoethlisbergerQB $11,600,000.00 $19,595,000.00
LaMarr WoodleyOLB $9,000,000.00 $13,240,000.00
Lawrence TimmonsILB $5,375,000.00 $11,160,000.00
Troy PolamaluS $7,500,000.00 $10,138,000.00
James HarrisonOLB $6,570,000.00 $10,035,000.00
Ike TaylorCB $6,000,000.00 $7,812,500.00
Heath MillerTE $5,162,000.00 $7,958,500.00
Willie ColonG $5,500,000.00 $7,650,000.00
Antonio BrownWR $2,000,000.00 $6,200,000.00
Ryan ClarkFS $3,500,000.00 $4,750,000.00
Brett KeiselDE $2,825,000.00 $4,500,000.00
Maurkice PounceyC $977,250.00 $2,527,875.00
Ziggy HoodDE $715,000.00 $2,436,000.00
Cameron HeywardDE $984,548.00 $1,828,644.00
David DeCastroG $745,000.00 $1,776,000.00
Shaun SuishamK $1,425,000.00 $1,762,500.00
Jerricho CotcheryWR $1,000,000.00 $1,500,000.00
Jason WorildsOLB $630,000.00 $985,000.00
Marcus GilbertT $668,402.00 $880,000.00
Mike AdamsT $480,000.00 $805,000.00
Curtis BrownCB $555,000.00 $685,300.00
Cortez AllenCB $555,000.00 $652,875.00
Sean SpenceILB $500,000.00 $636,000.00
Al WoodsDE $630,000.00 $630,000.00
Alameda Ta\’amuNT $512,000.00 $620,000.00
Chris CarterOLB $555,000.00 $596,000.00
Baron BatchRB $555,000.00 $567,000.00
Weslye SaundersTE $555,000.00 $556,000.00
Da\’Mon Cromartie-SmithSS $555,000.00 $555,000.00
Chris RaineyRB $480,000.00 $525,000.00
Toney ClemonsWR $480,000.00 $492,000.00
Terrence FrederickCB $480,000.00 $491,000.00
David PaulsonTE $480,000.00 $491,000.00
Drew ButlerP $480,000.00 $482,000.00
Corbin BryantDE $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
Futures Player* $480,000.00 $480,000.00
RULE OF 51* N/A $133,679,194.00

  • JayBirdDC

    If what Ken Laird said last night about Woodley not coming to camp in
    the best shape is true, which could impact his season, and if LT doesn’t have the break-out season that has been predicted for the past 4 seasons, it is going to be a bit disappointing having so much money invested in the two of them.

  • SteelSpine

    Easy choices I favor even if these choices didnt save money (though these do):
    – Gimme Cortez Allen over Keenan Lewis.
    – Gimme Sly over Foote.
    – Gimme Redman over Mendenhall.
    – Gimme Heywood or McLendon over Ziggy (tho I doubt this will happen).

  • SteelSpine

    I agree. It’s concerning to me, I assumed the only issue with Woodley is getting past recovery of wrist surgery. I assume running etc woulda slowed healing, but otherwise a player not in shape tells me not concerned about any depth pushing the player, & i have now begun thinking DaveB was right when he wrote his biggest concern is OLB. Re LT, when Steelers re-signed LT to that big of contract, I was surprised & that told me the Steelers staff thinks the depth at ILB is much worse than I thought it was. I thought we’d be fine having groomed Sly & using anyone at the other ILB spot, but paying big bucks to re-sign LT & drafting Spence tells me the staff knows a lot that we cant see when watching the preseason games & regular season.

  • NW86

    Thanks for posting and theorizing some things for us. I few concerns I would have with your scenarios though:
    -You’re talking about Harrison being gone, but you have also talked about the current lack of depth at OLB. Worilds can’t walk down a flight of stairs without getting hurt and though Carter is improving, he has a long way to go to fill Harrison’s shoes. You can’t count on a rookie draft pick to come in and replace him right away.
    -It’s too early to extend Ben with his contract already running through 2015. If they restructure him again, that will push his 2014-2015 cap hits into the $23-$24 million range, with the majority of it being “dead money” pushed back from the past few years. They simply can’t keep pushing his cap hit back, I think they’ve painted themselves into a corner with all his past restructures and are going to have to suck it up and live with his cap hit in 2013.
    -Ike will still be their best corner, and Cotchery is worth his reasonable cap hit. I certainly hope they aren’t forced to cut them.
    One other way to save a little money is to restructure Brown like Woodley and Timmons. I’m sure they were thinking ahead when they signed his deal, and they can turn most of his money into bonus and lower his cap hit in 2013.
    Bottom line, I’m sure they’ll figure out, but it won’t be without some tough decisions in February. Here’s hoping the cap does jump a lot in 2014 like many are projecting so they can finally stop restructuring and start letting the accounting catch up for the money already spent in past years.

  • NW86

    One problem there – Lewis, Foote, Mendenhall, and McLendon are not currently under contract for 2013 anyway, so they’re not even counted in the figures above.

  • restructuring Ben next year will not push his cap hits in 2014 and 15 to $23-$24 million.try just south of $20 million.

    what kind of shape do you think deebo will be in after this year? they will have to swim with worilds or carter, like it or not.

    curtis will take over for taylor in 2013. also as i stated, taylor can be resigned to a qualifying deal. he wont go elsewhere.

    restructure brown? you really want to start stacking money on his backend with very little to gain in restructure? not wise.

  • NW86

    I thought Ben’s hit was already $20M for next year…
    As for the other 3 items (Harrison being gone, Taylor being gone, Brown being restructured), how about a friendly wager? For each item I am wrong, I’ll donate $10 to the site. For each item you are wrong, you just have to admit it and give me a shout on the site or on a podcast. What do you say?