5 biggest contracts the Pittsburgh Steelers have ever handed out

Pittsburgh has dished out some massive contracts, but here are the five biggest in terms of yearly value.
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

Every year, the NFL salary cap reaches new heights. This results in records routinely being broken for the largest contracts in league history. The Pittsburgh Steelers have dished out some massive contracts of their own.

Surprisingly, many of these numbers pale in comparison to what opposing NFL teams have handed out to their best players in recent years. Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, for example, is now making more money with significantly more guarantees than any contract the Steelers have ever handed out.

A few years from now, we could be looking at several new contracts claiming the top spot on this list. As of the 2024 offseason, here are the five biggest contracts the Pittsburgh Steelers have ever handed out in terms of average per year.

5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, 2022: $18.24M per year

Immediately after trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick during the 2019 season, the Steelers elevated their defense to one of the best units in the NFL for two straight years. During this time, Minkah Earned First-Team All-Pro honors twice.

When the time came to receive a new contract it wasn't surprising to see Pittsburgh make Minkah the highest-paid safety in NFL history. This didn't last long, however, as Derwin James quickly claimed this title two months later.

Still, this is an enormous sum of money to hand to a safety, and Fitzpatrick is largely responsible for causing a market reset at the position. His extension with the Steelers in 2022 at $18,247,000 per year (which included $36 million in guarantees) claims the spot as the fifth biggest contract in Steelers history -- narrowly edging out players like Antonio Brown (2017) and Cameron Heyward (2020).

4. Diontae Johnson, 2022: $18.35M per year

I'd venture a guess that most fans don't realize Diontae Johnson earned one of the biggest contracts the Steelers ever handed out in terms of yearly value. Johnson emerged as the team's number-one receiver early in his career. After earning Pro Bowl honors in a contract year in 2021, the Steelers handed Johnson a two-year, $36.71 million deal during the 2022 offseason.

At $18,355,000 per year in new annual earnings, this APY was higher than what Antonio Brown earned in his biggest NFL contract with the Steelers during the 2017 offseason ($17 million per year).

The increased salary cap played a major role in this, and wide receivers are a premium position in the NFL. Johnson didn't play out the final year of his contract before he was traded to the Panthers, and he had a disappointing season in 2023 before leaving Pittsburgh.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, 2015: $21.85M per year

Nobody should be surprised to see Ben Roethlisberger crack this list. Big Ben was a two-time Super Bowl champion playing the most important position in the game.

Back in 2015, Roethlisberger inked a four-year extension worth $87.4 million with $34.25M in guarantees. This was an enormous contract at the time which equated to $21.85 million per year. Of course, in today's game, this barely looks like starting quarterback money.

2. T.J. Watt, 2021: $28.0M per season

T.J. Watt made history in the summer of 2021 when he set the record to become the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. After three stellar years on his rookie contract, the All-Pro edge defender inked a four-year extension worth a whopping $112 million.

Watt's $28 million per season was the second-largest contract the Steelers ever handed out in terms of yearly value, and Watt set a new franchise record for guaranteed money -- earning an astounding $80 million in guarantees.

The former first-round pick is on a Hall of Fame pace, and he is on track to top the number one contract on the list in the near future.

1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2019: 34.0M per season

Claiming the top spot for the biggest contract the Pittsburgh Steelers ever handed out is Ben Roethlisberger. In the latter stages of his career in 2019, the franchise quarterback agreed to sign a two-year extension worth $68 million with $37.5 million guaranteed.

At $34.0 million per season, Big Ben again etched his name in the history books as the Steelers' highest-paid player of all time. Remarkably, this is less money than the New York Giants gave QB Daniel Jones on his contract extension in 2023 ($40 million per year).

The salary cap rises significantly each year, and Roethlisberger won't hold down the top spot for long. As of 2024, he holds the record as the highest-paid player in Steelers history.

All contract numbers courtesy of Over the Cap.