Steelers may not be able to re-sign a single Pro Bowler in 2021
The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have some big financial problems after the 2020 season. Here’s why they may not be able to retain their star players.
The Steelers stand to be a very competitive team in 2020. Their losses this offseason were minimal and Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger and Stephon Tuitt returning to their lineup. In addition, the acquisition of veteran talent like Eric Ebron, Chris Wormley, and Stefen Wisniewski should only add to their success this year.
But despite all of their promise for a competitive season in 2020, next year’s roster could look totally different.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL teams are going to take serious hits this year. While most had planned on opening their stadiums at 50 percent capacity, it’s looking more and more likely that there will be no fans at all. If that is the case, the league could hit the projected cap floor of $175 million in 2021.
With the Steelers already projected to have $191.4 million in cap liabilities next season, this would put them roughly $16 million over the projected cap, according to Over the Cap. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh has just 43 players under contract heading into next season.
Here’s where it gets really scary.
The Steelers have a handful of Pro Bowlers they will not be able to sign next offseason, including players like Cameron Heyward, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Alejandro Villanueva. In addition, solid contributors like Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, and Cameron Sutton also have expiring contracts after this season.
If Pittsburgh indeed already is over the cap heading into the offseason, it will be impossible to get a deal done with any of their high-end talent.
Ben Roethlisberger’s cap hit of $41.25 million in 2021. is substantial. Even if Pittsburgh can give him yet another extension and push his money back in the future, it wouldn’t save them enough to be able to sign more than one departing Pro Bowler this offseason.
Obviously, players like Heyward, Smith-Schuster, and Dupree are looking at contracts that should shoot their yearly value up to between $15-20 million per season. While it’s possible that Pittsburgh could potentially retain a few lesser-known players like Matt Feiler or Cameron Sutton after this year, if the cap drops to the projected floor, all of their Pro Bowlers with expiring contracts will be gone.
If for some reason, the NFL is still allowed to fill stadiums to half capacity this year, they may not have to drop the cap all the way down to this point. But based on what the NBA and MLB are going through right now, we can expect that fans will not be allowed at games.
It’s the unfortunate truth, but the harsh reality is that the Steelers could lose a large portion of their talent in 2021. Hopefully, they can make one final run at a Super Bowl before their team is disassembled.