Steelers Have The Cap Moves To Be Players In Free Agency, But That Doesn’t Mean They Will Make Them

With about a half-dozen moves so far this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have chipped away about $20 million, give or take, from their salary cap in the 2014, leaving them with about $3 million in cap space as of this writing.

In the red. By offering cap-friendly two-year extensions to Heath Miller and Troy Polamalu, that was cut just about in half.

The releases of Larry Foote, Curtis Brown, and Levi Brown brought them within striking distance of cap compliancy, and the restructure two days ago of Antonio Brown’s contract leaves us where we are now.

And that may be good enough, in the Steelers’ eyes.

Outside of a long-term extension for Worilds and a post-June release for LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers don’t necessarily have to make any more cap-saving moves if it’s not in their plans to do so, and they very well may not.

A long-term extension with Worilds has been, of course, the plan all along, and an eventual deal could save around $5 million in cap space for the 2014 season. That would give the Steelers around $8 million to play around with in order to sign all of their pending free agents that they would like to retain, thanks in large part to displacement value.

That list would include names like Jonathan Dwyer, Jerricho Cotchery, Al Woods, Fernando Velasco, and potentially others such as Cody Wallace, Ziggy Hood, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Stevenson Sylvester, to name just a few.

That may be more than enough cap room to take them into June, when they would reap the rewards of the Woodley release to the tune of close to $8 million. That, combined with any leftover from before, could be enough to sign their draft class, perhaps work out an extension or two with younger players on the rise, and, importantly, stow away an in-season kitty of a couple million dollars for emergencies.

Yes, the Steelers have other means of relatively efficiently carving out additional cap space in 2014, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to the front office intending to utilize all options to maximal capacity.

They could restructure Lawrence Timmons’ contract in a similar manner to which they restructured the contract of Brown, which would save a comparable amount of a little under $4 million.

They could expedite the process of a contract extension with Ben Roethlisberger before any more quarterbacks cash in and raise the ceiling for the position, thereby saving millions in cap space this year and allowing his inflated salaries to kick in just as the salary cap begins to swell.

They could demand that Ike Taylor take a pay cut by several million dollars. They could go so far as to release him, thereby saving the equivalent of his 2014 salary, which comes in at $7 million.

They could do all these things and wind up with $30 million in cap space if they really wanted to.

But there’s no rush. The Steelers aren’t going to go diving head first into free agency just began they finally can for a change. That’s not their way. That’s never been their way.

Early indications seem to be that free agents are going to be in for a treat this offseason, likely due in large part to the rise of the salary cap. Last year, for example, cornerbacks in particular seemed to be taking relatively modest salaries.

This free agency period already, Brent Grimes has re-upped with the Miami Dolphins for $8 million a season, with $16 guaranteed, while Sam Shields just cashed in with a contract close to $10 million per season, both contracts on four-year deals.

If the cost of doing business in free agency means overpaying, don’t expect the Steelers to pay to play. They’ll feel out the market and if they feel they can make some affordable moves, they’ll make the necessary cap maneuvers that they have to in order to conduct business. Otherwise, they may just leave well enough alone.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Matt Manzo

    I’m expecting a Saftey in free agency. Maybe a CB? Maybe a OLB maybe a DE? But deffinetly a Safety. (Not including Allen)

  • Nolrog

    Some kind of upgrade somewhere on defense would be great. Even if it’s just a depth move, that would help.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Yup. If you think they can go splurge in FA, spending top dollar, you may wish to look at the list of FA’s the Steelers have currently. Should we get rid of all of them to sign just 1 or 2 big name FA’s from other teams? Of course not! And the Steelers won’t.

    With all the extra money, there are crazy teams out there that will blow their brains out with huge contracts at the beginning of FA. Afterwards, when they wake up to find that there are still tons of CB’s or D Linemen out there unsigned, the FA;s expectations will come way down. That is when the Steelers will find someone that can help and possibly excel.

  • Jim McCarley

    Ike needs to go…regardless. He gives up too many catches and yards……I will never understand playing ten yards off a receiver on third and 8…

  • chris ward

    I can see the Steelers signing some depth players in FA, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they need some depth the most.

  • Nolrog

    That’s not Ike’s call though. It’s how LeBeau sets the defense.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    We really need. a starter at cb the most they cant keep putting band aids over open wounds and think its gonna stop the bleeding if they can shore up 30mill i say go qfter verner for 8/9 then then add second tier positins for depth and draft what we need. to build moving forward the fo needs to stop being so cheap im not asking them to spend all of it but just splurg a lil after two 8-8 seasons they need shots in the arm at atleast one. High quality FA to secure our weakest link and then second tier a draft for other needs imo tHats what i would do without breaking the bank if im FO it would motivate players and keep fans happy

  • Paddy

    They need to get better with their drafts, free agents aren’t free.

  • Melly

    I’m guessing that they must be saying to Woodley’s agent that they want him to reduce his salary?! They can run the post June 1 cut scenario, and say to them how many teams will be able to give your client good money 3 months into FA?!? Teams simply are not gonna hold 6-8 million just in case Woodley gets released post June 1! So take a cut, help the team out, and stay n Pittsburgh! Its a win win vs getting released and not knowing where u r gonna be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Just a thought!

  • cencalsteeler

    Nice post Reg. If there is a season where the Steelers need to break the mold, it’s this year. Ben, Troy and Heath’s windows are getting smaller. If you want to give chase for a Lombardi soon, the Steelers should be aggressive with FA this year. I’d start with cutting Ike, free up 7 million, and go get a strong playmaking corner.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Don’t forget, however, that a player can be released designated a a post-June 1 cut at any point before then and would be free to sign with other teams before then. This is what the Steelers did to Willie Colon last year.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    It’s almost like a courtesy to the player so he can look for employment elsewhere. But if the Steelers wait and see if he will take a cut (Woodley and his agent), then they do have the right to decide later. At that point he would be limited in his choices.

  • Matt Manzo

    I think we’ll draft a CB that starts by week 4!

  • AndyR34

    You are arguing with someone that doesn’t understand Coach Dick’s defensive philosophy. He has probably made the same comment about Townsend, McFadden, Willie Gay and even Cortez, but cannot connect the dots! 🙂

  • Melly

    Right. I believe they were done w/ Colon anyway? If I were the Rooneys, I would not give up that leverage of June 1. No way would I give them time to look for work on my clock!!! IMO Woodley is still a talented guy…just cant stay healthy. But the injuries should play a part w/ them trying to rework his deal. No salary is worth paying if u cant even get or stay on the field!!!

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt


  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Hopefully but by that time we may very well be 0-4 like before. thats why i hope they also get one in FA as well just to give us a fighting chance and. not have to d ourselve

  • steelster

    the worilds signing indicates Woodley is history. He will want to be a starter for another team and he won’t take a pay cut why would he when he has 13 million coming his way. The steelers should cut him before june 1st and eat all 13 million this year that way they don’t have to pay him 25 million over the next two years.

  • Melly

    he doesn’t get his salary if he is cut and he’s not getting anything near 13 million on the open market…maybe 6-7?!

  • sean mcmartin

    And it makes sense to play 10 yards off on 3rd and 8 .
    Although I didn’t see that formation in this years superbowl.Hmmm

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I say if we get a S in FA we draft a CB, and if we sign a CB we draft a S(in the first round that is)

  • sean mcmartin

    Your spot on Melly, It’s a business , why not make a good business strategy for themselves. Keep the leverage.

  • Bruce Hake

    Cut Taylor and get some young blood at the position! Also draft 2 cb’s and a safety, then we can compete with NE and Den….

  • tricitysteel

    They aren’t gonna go after any first tier free agents, that’s just not their way, I don’t expect any outside free agent acquisitions for at least a week or two. I would like for them to get the Jason Worilds long term deal done by then.