Every offseason we hear about teams who have $20 million, even $30 million or more in cap space before they do any type of moves to free up additional money. The Bengals this year have about $60 million in cap room. Everybody always wonders why the Steelers aren’t in a similar position and why they have to do so many restructures each year to get cap compliant. Why aren’t the Steelers big players in free agency, if they had more cap space they could be; is an argument often heard around the water cooler.
Even if the Steelers would somehow manage to have $30 million in cap space to start out a business year, that doesn’t mean they would go out and drop an exorbitant amount of money on an outside player just because they’re available. Pittsburgh builds their team through the draft, and they always will. They get by in free agency with middle tier players to fill in as depth but rely on the starters to be guys they groom out of college for the most part. It’s hard to argue with that success considering each year they are either in the playoffs or contending for a post season seed.
When is the last time you saw the Steelers not be able to sign their draft picks, or not be able to resign one of their high profile veterans to an extension? The answer would be, you don’t. If they want to sign a player, they do so at a fair price. They won’t break the bank for anybody no matter who they are, just because. The fact that they were able to give extensions to Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, Lamarr Woodley, and Ike Taylor is a testament not only to Omar Khan and the front office but also to those players realizing what they have in Pittsburgh. They could go elsewhere for more money, there’s always a higher bidder, but Pittsburgh is a special place to play and a special city to be a part of. The Rooney’s will treat their players right and reward those that deserve it.
In a recent article by Jamison Hensley of ESPN, he talks about how the Steelers could be in trouble for the future, here’s an excerpt: The NFL’s busiest team this offseason, the Steelers whacked $25 million in three weeks by restructuring the contracts of five players. This got Pittsburgh under the cap this year, but the $25 million doesn’t just disappear. The chunk of cap change gets spread over future years. What it boils down to is this: The Steelers got themselves out of cap jail today by handcuffing themselves in the future. These moves are putting pressure on the Steelers to win now.
“As a former cap manager in the NFL for 10 years, I know that if you want to make something work for one year, you can,” ESPN NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt said. “It’s just a question of how much pain are you pushing off to the future.”
The first real pinch will come in 2013, when the Steelers could be anywhere from $10 million to $15 million over the cap depending on the limit next year. Add that to having three starters on offense becoming unrestricted free agents: wide receiver Mike Wallace (if he doesn’t go elsewhere this year as a restricted free agent), running back Rashard Mendenhall and tight end Heath Miller.
Adding to the Steelers’ potential cap woes for 2013, Antonio Brown will become a restricted free agent after the upcoming season.
Pittsburgh will have to either find cap room to re-sign these players, look for cheaper replacements in free agency or hope someone already on the roster can take their spots. Plus, wide receiver Antonio Brown becomes a restricted free agent in 2013, so the Steelers could be facing another Wallace situation all over again with a limited budget. It looks like there will be tougher decisions in 2013 than this year.
How can the Steelers keep pushing all this money off to future years and expect to remain competitive? Unless your name is Omar Khan, Kevin Colbert, or one of the other outstanding names in the Steelers front office you’ll never know the inner workings of how they manage the cap. We get solid, reputable, information from Steelers insiders like Jim Wexell, Ed Bouchette, Gene Collier, and other amazing local media in Pittsburgh but the Steelers will never let out all of their secrets. Anybody that tells you otherwise is flat out wrong. As a fan we can rest assured that our team will never mortgage their future without being able to compensate for circumstances that may arise. Kevin Colbert talked about that subject in a recent media session when he mentioned how they knew the issues in 2012 were coming based on their actions in 2011, so they were prepared to handle it.
If there’s one thing about the Steelers organization, they always cover their bases when it comes to the salary cap and keeping their core players intact.
When is the last time you saw the Steelers dump players left and right to save cap space? If there was a ever a year they were going to do it, this would be the year but that’s not going to happen. Releasing Bryant McFadden and Arnaz Battle hardly qualifies as mass dumping of salaries. Even if they do end up terminating other names like Chris Kemoeatu, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, James Farrior, Larry Foote, or Hines Ward, none of these players are vital to the future success of the team. I hate to say it but it’s the truth. Kemoeatu struggled last year and eventually was benched; Aaron Smith hasn’t played a full season in years and is in the twilight of his career anyway. Casey Hampton is in the final year of his contract so they need to find his replacement soon and Hines Ward barely saw the field in 2011. Farrior and Foote split time in the middle last year and the defense could use a serious infusion of youth and speed opposite Lawrence Timmons. For what it’s worth I’d be surprised if all those names were flat out released; more than likely restructures will be done Hampton, possibly Ward and Farrior too. If they were truly in “salary cap hell” you’d see them dumping guys like James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Rashard Mendenhall, and Heath Miller in addition to those previous names . You won’t see them do that simply because they won’t have too. It’s good to be a Steelers fan isn’t it?!
Never underestimate the power of good management and values when it comes to running a team; and that’s exactly what we get as Steelers fans. No matter what happens with this offseason, the Steelers will be fine in 2013 just they are every other year.