How Steelers can create more cap space entering free agency

Omar Khan doesn't have much spending money yet, but that could change by performing a few of these roster moves.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to vault themselves out of the salary cap hole when they made an initial wave of roster moves that included releasing Mitch Trubisky, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Pressley Harvin III. But with free agency just around the corner, their current funds are still limited and won't take them far.

With free agency on the horizon, the Steelers have roughly $8 million in salary cap space for the 2024 offseason. This will hardly be enough cash to leave a dent. Fortunately, there are a few things the Steelers can do to clear more cap space entering free agency.

There's no guarantee that Omar Khan and the front office will elect to explore every avenue, as some of these options could have costly implications down the line. However, it's safe to assume that will perform at least a few of these roster moves that will give them more cap space to work with during the free agency frenzy this year.

Steelers could release Allen Robinson II

There are reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers want Allen Robinson back for the 2024 season and that the feeling is mutual. I can't get behind this. Mike Tomlin no doubt likes Robinson's willingness as a blocker, but it's impossible to justify his roughly $11.9 million cap number for the 2024 season.

If Robinson does return, he will have to reduce his base salary down to practically the veteran minimum. The best option, however, is cutting the 30-year-old receiver (who is coming off a bad year and doesn't play special teams). This would instantly save the Steelers $10 million that they could spend in free agency.

Steelers could release or restructure Larry Ogunjobi

I was not a fan of the decision to giftwarp Larry Ogunjobi a three-year, $28.75 million deal last offseason, and the veteran defensive lineman didn't come close to earning his paycheck in 2023. I'm not opposed to cutting him (possibly as a post-June 1st designation) in order to save more money for free agency. Making Ogunjobi a post-June 1st cut would save the Steelers $9.75 million.

Perhaps the more likely option is that Pittsburgh could restructure his deal and convert some of his base salary into a signing bonus, this would lower his cap number in 2024 and push it into the future.

Steelers could release Patrick Peterson

Despite his reputation as a former All-Pro cornerback, Patrick Peterson should not be safe from being thrown back into the free agency pool. Peterson was just okay on the Steelers last year, but it's hard to justify a 2024 cap number of $9.775 million for a cornerback who is now 34 years old and didn't play particularly well in 2023.

On top of that, Peterson might be asked to transition to safety, as his lack of speed and quickness was an issue at times. The smartest move might be cutting ties with Peterson and saving $6.85 million that Pittsburgh could put toward a cornerback in free agency.

Steelers could cut Damontae Kazee or Keanu Neal

This would be an easy decision for me. Damontae Kazee wasn't great for the Steelers last year, and Pittsburgh can instantly save $3 million by cutting him loose. Releasing Keanu Neal would net similar money, as Pittsburgh could save $2.25 million by letting him go.

Steelers could restructure contracts of T.J. Watt or Minkah Fitzpatrick

Restructuring contracts is a way to create significant cap space in a hurry. The contracts of T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick could be restructured to reduce their 2024 base salaries. The problem with doing this is that the Steelers will pay the price later on when they have even larger cap numbers in future years that will account for a substantial portion of their salary. Omar Khan might view that as tomorrow's problem.

Steelers could extend Cameron Heyward

We don't know how much Cameron Heyward has left in the tank, but he hasn't expressed interest in retiring any time soon. Giving him a contract extension seems a bit risky for a soon-to-be 35-year-old player who missed almost half of the 2023 season with a groin injury. However, this would be one means of saving cap space.

With an extension, the Steelers can lower Heyward's cap number for the 2024 season and push most of his money into future years. The downfall is that Pittsburgh might never see Heyward play out his contract. Tacking on voidable years is also an option.

All contract and salary cap numbers courtesy of Over the Cap.