The Steelers apparently have a different business model than many NFL teams. Here’s why they should stop paying great money to average players.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a pickle financially, and it’s nobody’s fault but their own. For years, general manager Kevin Colbert and the Rooney family have stayed true to the business philosophy they have lived all this time.
Colbert is a GM that is known for retaining his own players and making sure they get paid. While this business model has worked for the Steelers in the past, there are some players Pittsburgh may be too loyal to.
Currently, the biggest problem with the Steelers salary cap situation isn’t that Ben Roethlisberger is getting paid too much or that they are spending money on the wrong positions. It’s that average to below-average starters are eating up far too much cap space.
Players like Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, Vince Williams, Vance McDonald, and Ramon Foster are taking up a rather large portion of Pittsburgh’s total spendings. Out of the team’s 22 total offensive and defensive starters, the five names I just mentioned are all in the top 13 in salary cap hits this season.
These poorly structured contracts may very well keep Pittsburgh from resigning a quality player like Bud Dupree, Javon Hargrave, or Mike Hilton long-term. For example, Mark Barron and Vince Williams split the Buck linebacker role on defense, yet they are reeling in a combined $15.15 million in 2020. At that number, the Steelers could technically afford any off-the-ball linebacker in the NFL except for Bobby Wagner or C.J. Mosely.
This year, quality young Pro Bowl linebackers like Cory Littleton and Joe Schobert may hit free agency. However, with the inability to get out of Vince William’s contract, the Steelers won’t be able to bid on one.
In the same way, Anthony Chickillo and Vance McDonald are grossly overpaid. Chickillo has just 2 sacks in his last 33 games. However, the way Pittsburgh restructured his contract, he is set to make $6.1 million this season. Likewise, McDonald is due $14.2 million over the next two seasons. Fortunately, however, the Steelers can elect to get out of these two contacts with limited dead money.
The Chiefs and the 49ers (both Super Bowl teams) have done business a little differently the past few seasons. Kansas City has allowed a lot of their mid-level players to walk so they can afford to go out and get stud players like Frank Clark (the 2nd-highest-paid defensive end in the league) and Tyrann Mathieu (3rd highest-paid safety).
The Steelers have been a competitive football team for many years, so obviously they have a plan in place. However, these back-loaded contracts to average NFL players are starting to get them in trouble. With the way the NFL is trending right now, perhaps a shift in their business philosophy would be beneficial to the team.