Steelers salary cap explained: Everything fans need to know for the 2023 offseason

Steelers, Omar Khan
Steelers, Omar Khan / George Gojkovich/GettyImages
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The offseason is an exciting time for football fans. After kicking things off with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, teams gear up for the frenzy that is free agency. Last offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers had more salary cap money to work with than ever before.

Though their 2022 spending didn't exactly turn the roster around, they were able to find a few solid players who will stick around for a while. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh won't have as much money to throw around this offseason.

This is Omar Khan's first offseason as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers and it will be interesting to see if his approach differs at all from Kevin Colbert's in the past. Here's everything Steelers fans need to know about their team's free agency in 2023.

How much cap space do the Steelers have?

Each year, the NFL cap ceiling continues to climb. In 2023, teams are allowed to spend as much as $224.8 million. This took a big jump from the $208.2 million each team had to work with in 2022.

Despite this high number, the Pittsburgh Steelers are currently in the hole when it comes to salary cap space. According to Over the Cap, Pittsburgh sits at $10.4 million. Their effective cap space --the cap space a team will have after signing at least 51 players and its projected rookie class -- is over $6.0 million.

How much salary cap space do the Steelers need to free up?

While things may be looking grim now, it's not going to stay that way. However, the Steelers do need to clear up plenty of cap space to become compliant. As it stands, they don't have salary cap space to pay their rookie draft class, much less re-sign any of their current free agents.

In order to reach compliance and afford their rookie draft class, the Steelers will have to free up a minimum of $8.4 million in salary cap space. However, the number will have to be much higher, as this number does not account for any roster displacement costs.

How can the Steelers clear salary cap space?

There are a number of ways for an NFL team to clear salary cap space to reach compliance or to add extra spending money for free agents. The simplest way to do so is by cutting players who eat up a good portion of the team's total cap space. Trading a player is also a way to do this; however, in both situations, the dead cap number must be considered. Some players with large guarantees in their contracts cannot be cut without substantial dead money hits.

Dead cap is how much money the team would have to pay toward the cap if they cut or trade a player. Right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers have over $8 million in dead money. This puts them in the middle of the pack in the NFL in 2023. Meanwhile, restructuring contracts takes a player's salary and converts it into a signing bonus. This helps to stretch out the cap number for the remainder of the contract.

Who are the Steelers free agents?

The Steelers are going to look to free up money in order to retain some of their own free agents who were on their roster during the 2022 season. Pittsburgh has a long list of free agents. Here are the notable names to keep an eye on this offseason.

Unrestricted free agents:

  • CB Cameron Sutton
  • S Terrell Edmunds
  • DT Larry Ogunjobi
  • LB Devin Bush
  • QB Mason Rudolph
  • S Damontae Kazee
  • DL Chris Wormley
  • EDGE Malik Reed
  • WR Myles Boykin
  • FB Derek Watt
  • RB Benny Snell Jr.
  • LB Marcus Allen
  • OL Jesse Davis
  • OT Trenton Scott

Restricted free agents:

  • CB James Pierre
  • OL J.C. Hassenauer
  • WR Steven Sims Jr.
  • EDGE Jamir Jones (ERFA)

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