Steelers Salary Cap Saga


The Steelers decisions to get under the salary cap are portrayed as a calculated strategy, but these money choices don’t always add up to a winning season.

The salary cap is a complicated beast. The Bleacher Report published an article in 2013 on understanding how the salary cap works that helps explain it.  If you have a head for figures, the cap and all the rules probably seem fine.

However I don’t have a head for figures and while I understand and support a level playing field, it seems like it has become a way to disguise and distort a lot of things.

Every year there is discussion about who the Steelers should let go and who they should keep. Emotions often run high and the discussion and the Steelers’ decisions take on a saga-like feel.

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Of course, none of us are privy to the negotiations with the agents in the middle.  The James Harrison decisions two years ago felt very unsatisfying to me as a fan. I wonder where the agent’s advice fell in that episode.

On the other side is the Roethlisberger 2008 contract.  For a team known to not pay their players as much as other teams will, that 8-year, $102M contract shook Steeler Nation and surprised many.

The Steeler Salary Cap Saga occasionally seems bloody.  The year Hines Ward was released, 2012, the Steelers also surprisingly released James Farrior and Aaron Smith. It’s a business, right?

Later in 2012, the Mike Wallace soap opera commenced with his much publicized and criticized hold out until late in training camp.  Coupled with his behavior during the regular season, we can see that the numbers may eventually work out, but it doesn’t always help the team.

So, what’s my point?

My point is that salary cap negotiations may be about leveling the playing field on the surface, but they are so much more. Want to get rid of an aging or troublesome player?  Oops, we’re out of money.

Team management can hide behind the salary cap to justify some of the unpopular personnel decisions as well.  Most of us knew James Harrison, James Farrior, and Hines Ward were aging veterans but didn’t want to see their time with the Steelers end that way.

Whether or not to keep veterans like Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, or Brett Keisel on the team are tough decisions and should be made based on how they can contribute going forward. But sometimes it seems like it becomes pure dollars and cents.

In the end, this is a business.  We hope the Salary Cap negotiations are less of a sterile set of decisions and more of an overall look at the players and what they can do for the franchise. However, it seems more like a unfeeling saga when player favorites are involved.

Let’s hope this year’s installment of the saga shapes a winning 2015.

Next: Steelers Cap Room, RB Choices, Taylor and Polamalu