The Steelers will lose a lot of talent if salary cap drops in 2021

JuJu Smith-Schuster Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Steelers have many players with expiring contracts after the 2020 season. Here’s why Pittsburgh is likely in the last year of their Super Bowl window.

We knew it couldn’t last forever, but it looks like that day is finally coming. Regardless of whether or not you want to face reality, the truth is that the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the tail end of a Super Bowl windowed that opened with Ben Roethlisberger all the way back in 2004.

There is plenty of reason to believe the Steelers will be a competitive team in 2020. Roethlisberger is returning from an elbow injury he suffered back in Week 2 of 2019, and his addition alone should be a monumental improvement over the lackluster combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. In addition, Pittsburgh already possesses a top-notch defense led by T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Assuming the 2020 season isn’t canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we better enjoy it while it lasts. Steelers fans could be in for a very rude awakening in 2021.

Because of the pandemic and projected loss of money for owners for the 2020 sesaon, it has been projected that next year’s salary cap could be as low as $175 million. This is awful news for Pittsburgh for several reasons.

Why 2020 will be Steelers last year of their Super Bowl window

For starters, the Steelers projected cap liabilities for the 2021 season already sits at $191.4 million, according to Over the Cap. In addition, Pittsburgh currently has 91 players on their roster. They have just 43 under contract for the 2021 season.

The list of players with expiring deals is less than encouraging. Among the players who may leave in 2021 include Cameron Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva, Mike Hilton, and Matt Feiler. Assuming the Steelers somehow came up with the money to franchise a player next offseason, this would mean that most of these names are gone.

While a team can overcome the loss of backups and rotational players from year-to-year, losing multiple Pro Bowl-level starters could have a devastating impact on the state of the franchise.

Though Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger under contract for the 2021 season, his $41.25 million cap hit next year could take up more than one-fifth of the team’s total cap space.

It’s impossible to know exactly how this year could play out in the NFL or how much cap space teams will have in 2021 as a result. However, if the NFL it’s the cap floor and is forced to allow teams to spend up to just $175 million, the Steelers will already be $16 million over the cap.

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Obviously, we are hoping this worst-case scenario doesn’t come to fruition, but even if it doesn’t, we need to prepare like this could be the Steelers last year in a closing Super Bowl window. Let’s hope they give it one more good run.