What if the Steelers are unable to re-sign any of our own free agents?

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers may be forced to play the 2021 NFL season without several familiar faces

Let me start out by stating that I do not believe that the Steelers will be unable to re-sign any of our pending free agents, but, at the same time, we cannot ignore that the possibility exists.  Not only it is possible that we may not be able to re-sign any of our pending free agents, but I also believe it is very probable.

Even with the recent announcement that Cameron Heyward, our starting DT, has restructured his contract to free up approximately $7 million dollars in much-needed cap space, we still have plenty of work to do to not only become ‘cap compliant’, but also to have enough cap space to sign our draft picks.

I suspect that more contracts will be restructured as this practice seems to be the modus operandi the Steelers have chosen to employ over the past several years in an effort to create cap space. Frankly, it is beyond my comprehension why we would dole out a salary that looks good initially, but that may not be sustainable for the life of the contract.

I realize salaries are based on both the position of the player and on the performance of the player, but what difference would it make if a salary is ‘x’ and the signing bonus is ‘y’ as opposed to the salary being more realistic and the signing bonus making up the majority of a player’s salary?

I think I can answer my own question by stating this:  There is no doubt some clause in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players’ association that prohibits the aforementioned practice, but no one seems to have an issue with the shell game’ the Steelers and many other teams have to play each year to free up cap space.

The Steelers will be faced with many difficult decisions that may alter the ‘landscape’ of the team in 2021

To be honest, the list of our free agents, whether they be unrestricted or otherwise, is too long to delve into individually, but suffice to say that a player like Alejandro Villanueva, our starting LT last season, will command a salary based on his position and performance that the Steelers may be unwilling or unable to pay.  I think it’s more the latter than the former, frankly.

As with our other pending free agents, I think the question is this:  Will a certain player be willing to take a ‘hometown discount’ in order to come back to the team?  We really cannot answer that question, but what we can predict is this:  If no player is willing to take the aforementioned ‘hometown discount’, the Steelers may not be able to re-sign any of our own free agents.

If that scenario plays out, the draft will then be of the utmost importance, meaning that we absolutely, positively cannot, in no way, shape, or form, have any ‘misses’ in the draft, which, in my opinion, is next to impossible as we all know that we have had ‘misses’ in the past handful of drafts.

Related Story. 4 developmental QBs the Steelers need to draft in 2021. light

I think the bottom line here is this:  Without enough cap space to not only re-sign our own free agents but also to extend the players we need to extend, the 2021 NFL season may the first in a long and dark string of seasons where the Steelers will not be competitive and that would be a travesty of epic proportions. Frankly, that is a discussion that I hope to never have.