2013 Steelers Salary Cap – Rule Of 51, Cap Number & Contract Restructure Primer

Super Bowl XLVII is now behind us and that means the 2013 NFL combine is right around the corner. After that yearly event takes place in Indianapolis the next important date on the NFL calendar is March 12, the start of the new league year and day that all teams have be salary cap compliant.

This time of year I receive quite a few questions regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers cap situation as well as questions about the Rule of 51. In addition to that, several want to know what the official cap number is.

Below I will break down a few things related to the cap that will hopefully clear some things up for several of you.

Rule of 51: Come 4:00 p.m. eastern on March 12 all teams must be cap compliant with the Rule of 51. That rule counts the top 51 cap charges of players under contract as well as any prorated bonus amounts outside of the top 51 salaries. Also included in that number is any dead money for the year.

Once a restricted free agent or exclusive rights free agent is tendered, that full amount becomes one of the 51 salaries even though the player won\’t likely sign the tender for some time. The same this goes for the franchise tag, but we will not have to worry about the Steelers using it again this offseason.

As we sit here in the first part of February the Steelers conveniently have 51 players under contract for 2013. The cap hits of all 51 players add up to $135,304,676.00. The outstanding dead money amount currently sits at $597,780.00, which gives us a Rule of 51 number of $135,902,456.00.

Once the Steelers begin tendering their restricted and exclusive rights free agents, which will likely happen a few days prior to March 12, each of those players will knock the lowest paid player off of the Rule of 51 list.

The Steelers are expected to restructure the contracts of at least four players way prior to the March 12 deadline and a few terminations are likely to take place by then as well. These restructures and terminations will off course decrease the Rule of 51 number.

Steelers 2013 Cap Number: The current projected cap number for every team in 2013 is $120.9 million, which is an increase of $300,000 over last year. The Steelers also have a credit of $758,000 which is a carry-over of unused cap space from 2012. This credit, when applied to the current Rule of 51 number, leaves us with a new Rule of 51 number of $135,144,456.00, which leaves the Steelers currently $14,244,456.00 million over the $120.9 million.

Keep in mind that number does not reflect any tenders as of yet, or any restructures. When you project in the $7,650,000.00 worth of tenders that the Steelers are expected to offer to five of their restricted free agents and two of their exclusive free agents, you would get a Rule of 51 number of $139,959,456.00, which would be $19,059,456.00 million over the $120.9 million cap number when then credit is also applied. This gives you a much clearer idea of how much needs to be cut via restructures, terminations, and possibly even pay cuts, by the time March 12 rolls around.

Contract Restructures: The Steelers can save nearly $22 million in cap space should they fully restructure the contracts of Ben Roethlisberger, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Brown to the maximums allowed with each contract. A restructure is not a pay cut as the process consist of turning the base salary and any roster bonus, where applicable, into a signing bonus, which is then prorated evenly across the years remaining on the contract. Normally players that only have two years left on their contract are not restructured and this would include James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. If the Steelers are wanting any money out of those three players they would each need to agree to take a pay cut, much like Casey Hampton did last offseason. The only difference with Hampton, however, is that he was in the final year of his contract and coming off of a major knee injury. Will Harrison give a $3 million discount to stay? We shall know soon.

You can keep up with the Steelers 2013 salary cap numbers here and below are related articles:

How The Steelers Can Clear $20 Million In 2013 Cap Space Via Four Restructures

Steelers 2013 Salary Cap – Release Savings Of Every Player Currently Under Contract

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • zyzak

    Sounds like there will be a blood letting of sorts . 20 million over the cap on an 8-8 team is ludicrous

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Nicely done Dave. Very clear and concise.

    What do you believe the Steelers will try and do first? Salary reductions (Harrison, Polamalu, Taylor)? Or salary restructures (Roethlisberger, Woodley, Timmons, Brown)?

  • Mike Carroll

    Nice summary and explanation of how the cap numbers break down this offseason. It’s nice to have the over the cap number (approx. $19M) that includes that RFA and ERFA tenders since those moves are likely and provides a starting point of sorts as you suggest.

  • steeltown

    I wish they’d take the money that they will spend tendering Sylvestor and give it to Foote instead on a one year deal through 2013

  • Mike Carroll

    I agree they’ll need to look to keep Foote one more year. Sylvestor did very little in his third season to suggest he’s really in the future plans and he is the one RFA that may not be tendered. And with Spence coming off a devastating knee injury, it’s really tough to know what you have with him, since he was an unproven 3rd round draft pick to begin with. Even if they draft someone like Te’o, I think the team will want the security of having Foote as a viable starter for at least the beginning of the season.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    Could they use extensions to soften current cap numbers with guys like Pouncey and Hood who I assume they are inclined to keep beyond their rookie contracts? Is it too early to extend Roethlisberger?

  • steeltown

    Exactly. I like the potential of Spence, but there is no way he is ready to start, no way

  • steeltown

    I think that could be a possibility

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I hope Colbert follows thru on what he said about 8-8 makes easier to now release people or not re-sign people. I wuld not restructure to mortgage future just to keep the ones we have who are old slow, & the busts, the ones who never lived up to their having their deal size for their position, & the ones who dont contribute enough due to annual injuries, etc. Cut them or dont re-sign such players if their contract expired.

    It’s harder now to find 53 of ours worth keeping (even if they wuld play for free), than cutting or not-signing plenty of the names who were on our team or our PS this year.

  • SteelersDepot

    hard to say which will come first, but they all will come right around the same time.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I agree on that one. This is not a SB team, Colbert’s priority shuld be to cut people (the dead weight & the too old slow) & cut the salary of underachievers, instead of restructuring decent players just to come up with money to pay people who shuld b cut

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    Foote had a solid year for us, but he also missed 9 tackles and allowed just about every pass thrown against him. I really don’t think we’d be losing all that much if he didn’t return. We might not have a better option, so they might resign him, and that’s probably the smartest thing to do, but there’s no hurry to do so in my opinion.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I agree w u Chris on that one. Tight ends scorched Foote.

    Spence looks too small to me for 3-4 in NFL. Forget the on-paper size, on field he looked tiny’r so i figured he wuld get killed. Then sure enuff he soon did. I wish they wuld try BJohnson there & whichever of our LBs are not starters at OLB.

  • steeltown

    Foote led the Team in tackles, also had 4sacks and 2FF.. he was phenomenal last season, yes, he’s a bit slow in coverage (still had the #1 pass Defense) but also thats why they drafted a player with Spence’ athletic ability.. there’s no denying that Foote is the QB of the Defense, he gets everyone set pre-snap. There is NO ONE to replace him at this point

    Who do you want there getting everyone set, reading the Offense, Brandon Johnson? Sylvestor? …No Way

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Too many of Foote’s tackles tho are 5 yds downfield, so high number of tackles ILBs get are numbers but….

    At least Foote stays healthy which is rare for Steelers players nowadays.

  • steeltown

    B.johnson is 6’5 250lbs.. he’s slower than Foote in pass coverage. I have to strongly disagree if you’re implying you’d take Johnson over Foote… just compare their stats over their respective careers.. they dont compare. Plus Johnson isnt much younger then Foote

  • steeltown

    I dont understand all the hate on Foote… I’m sorry, but the best players on Defense last year by far were Timmons, Foote, Clark and Lewis

  • Maurice_hill_district

    It aint hate, just speed. The reason Timmons replaced Foote years ago was lack of speed, so Foote went to Detroit. That was years ago, so Foote culdnt have gotten faster since then. Opponents will watch tape of this past year, then when Foote is on the field they’ll throw passes to their TE near Foote.

  • steeltown

    We had the #1 pass Defense again last year.. plus they drafted Spence to neutralize TE’s and shifty RB’s

  • steeltown

    One thing is certain.. I am alittle perturbed that no one has written an article or piece on Sean Spence’s rehab.. I mean the guy was a 3rd Rd pick and I havent heard a word on his recovery. I know he was on IR and unable to participate, but would be nice to hear something, maybe interview the guy and ask him how he’s coming along…

  • Jollyrob68

    NO! Tenders Sylvestor and play him. Time to move on from the older players. Foote,Harrison,Hampton

  • Jollyrob68

    Not Foote Hate it’s time to move forward. The Steelers alway waste young talent by not playing them and then thier contracts up and the become stars for someone else. Youth Movement time…Remember people weren’t happy when they cut Joey P.

  • Jollyrob68

    Spence didn’t get killed he hurt himself. Hyperextended his leg. Spence is an agressive player.

  • Jollyrob68

    If they dont play you how can you show anything? The Steelers mainly LeBeau would play old,slow vets than play younger,faster youth. Time to Promote Keith Butler.

  • steeltown

    Agree about Harrison and Hampton because we have Worilds/Robinson and McLendon/Ta’amu/Fangupo… but there is no one to replace Foote.. Sly played ONE snap last season and cant stay healthy and Spence is still unproven. We need Foote for one more year

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    I know there’s no one to replace him, yet. Ditto on Johnson and Sylvestor. I think the best move would be to resign him and have him start another 16 games. What I’m basically saying is I’m not happy that’s what will probably happen, and I have far bigger concerns with this team other than his position, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing to wait on addressing Foote. He had a solid season and outperformed what was expected of him to some degree. Phenomenal? No way. Save that word for Pro Bowlers. If I had my choice of who to play the Buck I’d say let Timmons take over. I think he was slated to get some reps there prior to the 2012 training camp, but I’m not sure if that ever happened. Then bank on Spence fully recovering and taking over at Mack. I know, I’m dreaming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Wilkes420 Christopher Wilkes

    I hear that!

  • SR88

    I have to ask why the Steelers numbers are so high? Ben makes a lot less than the other big time QBs and their teams always have room under the cap. Are the Steelers really overpaying their backups by that much money? A lot of players on this team are grossly overpaid. I think they need to step back and realize its time to rebuild, they havent done that since the 80s.

  • walter mason

    I dont like the idea of restructuring Woodley.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Good & fair point.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I too 2nding the motion.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    That indeed is the downside of having the great LeBeau.

  • Mike Carroll

    Neither do the Steelers. Unfortunately, they may still do it :(

  • Mike Carroll

    The main reason the Steelers cap numbers are so high is because the team has been too reluctant to let go of the occasional big name player. That used to be common during the Cowher era. And while it can be painful in the moment, there are real benefits beyond the immediate monetary savings. Fortunately, the team is being forced to let go of Wallace.

    The team doesn’t need to rebuild. They just need to rejuvenate more often.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Not sure why people hate on LeBeau…the #1 defense once again yet we still are not happy. As far as Spence went…nobody must have watched him get blocked on every single play in preseason till his injury. he didnt make a single play…not sure why we are big on a guy that gets engulfed by FB’s.

  • Mike Carroll

    I would not call a $3M pay cut for Harrison a “discount” on his part. Harrison is set to make $6.5M in base salary. The Steelers won’t pay that and it’s doubtful another team would for a soon to be 35 year old linebacker who’s been in decline for the past two seasons. The reason he might come back at a reduced salary is because the team has already told him he will be released at the current salary. I’m not sure the team will even bring him back at $3.5M, given the team’s cap situation. Of course, they’ve payed and played every other star to the bitter end in recent years so they may do it one more time.

    Ike is a candidate for a pay cut because the team could cut him and transition directly to a starting CB tandem of Lewis and C. Allen. In fact, I think there is some real potential they do just that, even though I am sure they’d love to bring Ike back at a reduced salary. But, if it comes down to Ike or Lewis, you’d hope the team would opt for youth.

    Troy is less likely for a pay cut, because I doubt the team would actually cut him. But, given the way secondary played with Will Allen last season, I’d be OK going with Allen and taking a safety high in the draft. Is it a step down in talent? Sure, when Troy plays healthy that’s true. But what week this year will we be hearing about Troy’s calf muscles? And how many practices will he be missing when he is playing?

    Of course, the biggest underperforming contract belongs to Woodley. But, it’s so ugly it would be a complete shock if he were cut. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of bad contracts. Would any other team sign Woodley today to the contract he got 2 years ago? I’d say no but I watched the Bills sign Mario Williams to the one of the worst deals in the history of football last year. But, I am confident the Steelers would not sign Woodley to that deal today. Unfortunately, there is no possibility for a pay cut because the contract is just that bad. Instead, they may end up paying all of his inflated salary up front because the team is desperate to get under the cap via another restructure, which would turn an ugly contract into something even worse.

  • Mike Carroll

    The bloodletting, in terms of cuts, could be fairly limited if the team over-indulges in maximum restructures (deferring $22M) on the four contracts Dave has pointed out. I’d prefer to see the team limit themselves to about $14-15M in restructured deferments and force themselves to make up the difference in cuts and/or paycuts. That would improve the team’s overall cap situation for 2014 and beyond as well as improve the team’s position in the individual contracts they chose not to restructure (such as Woodley’s).

  • NW86

    That sounds good in theory, but both Pouncey and Hood’s base salaries are pretty low this year (most of their cap hit is from bonus money paid in past years), so extending them wouldn’t decrease their cap hit much. As for Ben, yes, with 3 years left on his contract I think it’s too early for an extension.

  • SR88

    True, it just seems crazy because they dont pay their players among the top at their positions except for Polamalu, but they pay every single player as much as they ask for it seems. Just crazy that most of our backups are making millions. I understand the need for that, but teams are out there with $20 mil + to spend, Steelers are losing star players and $20 mil over

  • Mike Carroll

    The salary of the backups is not an issue. I look at this way: The current top 10 player cap charges on the team (all starting players) amounts to about $100M (about $10M per player). The obvious problem with that approach is that you’ve spent about 83% of your entire cap on the equivalent of approx. one starting unit (offense or defense), and you are left with only about $20M for the other entire starting unit as well filling out the roster with an additional 29 backups/special teams players. I realize the Steelers are playing the restructure game currently, and the cap hit from the top ten guys will be reduced somewhat by the cap deadline day. But, I think these numbers make it clear the team has become very top heavy, cap-wise, with their star players. There are only so many $10M/year salaries a team can absorb before the quality of the remaining roster is negatively impacted in a significant way.

  • SR88

    Thats why I said about the rebuilding. The team is clearly not a contender as it sits and losing Starks and Harrison and Kiesel and Wallace and Mendenhall doesnt make them better. I feel as though going forward, maybe trading a higher salary guy and taking the hit for trading him but getting some mid round level pick to fill the spot on the roster with young backups would be better than cutting them and having nothing. They definitely need to trim that up at the top. Hate to see guys like Ben, Woodley or Troy leaving, but maybe they need to serious consider it. No real options for trading Ben now, I think he is at least top 10 in the league if not top 5, with no replacements coming in this year’s draft or free agency, but I think its something they need to look at. Drafting Elam or Vecarro would help that out by allowing a releasing of Troy next year. He may be the best defensive player we have seen in quite some time, but the team cant keep everyone with the problems with the cap. I would like t go into an offseason with flexibility to bring in a big free agent if needed. Thought it wouldnt happen, having that option would be nice.