Pittsburgh Steelers financial future is worse than you think

Pittsburgh Steelers Cameron Heyward (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers Cameron Heyward (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Steelers could be in the last year of their Super Bowl window. Here’s why their financial outlook in 2021 and beyond is worrisome.

Steelers fans have plenty of things to look forward to in the upcoming season. We witnessed a legitimately good defense in 2019 with emerging stars in T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Meanwhile, no team suffered a bigger loss last year than Pittsburgh after losing Ben Roethlisberger for the season. His return is sure to make them legitimate contenders in 2020.

But despite the promise at a Super Bowl run in the upcoming sesaon (assuming Pittsburgh stays relatively healthy), their financial future in 2021 and beyond is worrisome, to say the least.

According to Over the Cap, the Steelers have just $28 million in cap space heading into next season – the fifth lowest in the NFL. But this isn’t even what’s most worrisome. Pittsburgh has just 38 players under contract next year.

Some of the players who are set to hit the market in 2021 (assuming no deal is done) include Cameron Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton. Obviously, losing all of these players would be detrimental to Pittsburgh’s future success.

What choices do the Steelers have?

With the global pandemic, it’s been rumored that the salary cap could go down next season instead of seeing its usual increase. While there will no doubt be stipulations in place to help teams who have structured their money like the Steelers, there is no way they will be able to re-sign most of their players set to hit the market next offseason.

The Steelers will need to find a way to go from 38 players to their offseason 90-man roster despite extremely limited funds. This potentially means choosing between players like Cameron Heyward and JuJu Smith-Schuster, as it’s unlikely they will afford to keep both.

One option that has been rumored is giving Ben Roethlisberger another contract extension and pushing the majority of his money back into the future. But even with this, there is no doubt Pittsburgh will suffer losses after the 2020 season because of their financial peril.

I know that this isn’t something that Steelers fans want to dwell on, but it’s important that we are aware of Pittsburgh’s financial situation heading into next season. Unless some major changes are made to protect teams amidst the pandemic, the Steelers could lose a lot of talent in 2021.

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Pittsburgh is an extremely well-run franchise and the Rooney’s know how to win football games. However, reality is starting to set in that, with an aging Ben Roethlisberger and a bad financial situation beyond this year,  2020 could legitimately be the Steelers last shot at a Super Bowl any time soon.