What free agent move can Steelers afford to make with their cap space?

Omar Khan, Director of Football and Business Administration for the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Omar Khan, Director of Football and Business Administration for the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers might be able to squeeze in one more free agent signing during training camp. Here’s a look at what they can afford to do.

Whether you agree with all the moves they made this offseason or not, we can’t say that the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t spend money. Kevin Colbert had the most salary cap space the team has ever had to work with in 2022 and he wasn’t afraid to spend it.

Prior to handing the reigns over to Omar Khan following the 2022 NFL Draft, Colbert added quality players like James Daniels, Myles Jack, Mason Cole, and Levi Wallace. He also used some of that salary cap space to retain Ahkello Witherspoon and Terrell Edmunds.

When the job officially became Khan’s, the new Steelers GM inked an extension with All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and signed defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.

After all of the moves the Steelers have made so far since the start of the 2022 free agency period, it should come as no surprise to see that they don’t have a lot of spending money left as we approach training camp. Currently, Pittsburgh sits at just over $14.3 million in effective cap space, according to Over the Cap.

Some fans confuse this to mean that the Steelers have $14 million left to spend before the season kicks off. This actually isn’t the case at all. Every team needs to carry extra money with them heading into the season in the event of injuries.

Who can the Steelers afford in free agency?

History tells us that Pittsburgh’s front office typically likes to go into the season with $8-10 million in salary cap space. Though they rarely end up using all of this, it’s more of an insurance plan in case a key player goes down and they need to sign one or have the cap space to trade for a guy who could fill that role.

Pittsburgh is also going to need enough money to sign their practice squad before the start of the season. However, most of this money will return to them as players who are currently on the roster get cut, and some cap savings returns. This means that the Steelers realistically have between $4-6 million they can still spend on a free agent if they choose either during training camp or after cut-down day.

Signing another Melvin Ingram-level player certainly isn’t out of the question for Pittsburgh. Last year, Pittsburgh was able to ink Ingram to a one-year, $4 million deal during the summer. Obviously, we all know how this story ended as Ingram eventually forced his way out the door, but it was money well spent prior to that point.

Theoretically, the Steelers could go after an even more high-profile player than Ingram — as long as that player would be willing to sign for more than one year. By adding additional years to the contract, Pittsburgh could lower the newcomer’s first-year cap hit and push a bulk of the money into the future.

Of the remaining free agents still in the market, the Steelers could realistically find a way to make an extension work with just about any of them. Even if they wanted to go after a player like edge defender, Trey Flowers, they could probably make that happen if he is willing to sign a two-year deal.

Based on the current strength of their roster, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Omar Khan make a move to improve the running back, edge defender, or cornerback depth. With the slim pickings left in the market, they might be able to have their pick of the litter.

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The Steelers don’t have infinite spending money left to use before the start of the season, but they certainly have enough to bring in a quality veteran