With the Steelers offseason in full swing, the team finds itself in a bit of a cap bind. While the league cap number hasn’t been set in stone yet, Pittsburgh is likely to start the offseason in the red. For a team full of needs, this is less than ideal.
That said, there are a lot of ways to alleviate cap space for this team, and after crunching the numbers, this team could realistically clear nearly 50 million dollars in cap space. Not every cap-clearing method is created equal though, so I want to rank them from quickest and easiest to more difficult to manage.
Notable options left off this list are a T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick restructure (as both are a few years into their deal and cap relief won’t go as far as other options. Cameron Heyward also isn’t mentioned, as I don’t believe he will take a pay cut or get a new deal. Cap space can be cleared those routes, but it isn’t as likely so I have opted to look elsewhere.
Steelers can cut Chukwuma Okorafor
The easiest route for the Steelers to create cap space is by cutting Chukwuma Okorafor. The former starting right tackle was benched for Broderick Jones after some negative comments during the Jaguars game. His contract is bloated, he isn’t slated to start anymore, and he has seemingly soured on the team.
This seems like a when, not if question for the team. Had Okorafor been on a more reasonable deal, you could have made the argument to keep him. That said, he clears 8.75 million in cap space by releasing him, so this seems like a foregone conclusion.
Steelers can cut Allen Robinson
In a similar vein as the release of Okorafor, the Steelers will do something with the contract of Allen Robinson. While in a perfect world, I could see the team wanting him around for his veteran leadership, he isn’t worth his current deal, and can save 10 million dollars by releasing him.
The only way you don’t save the max here is if Robinson agrees to a pay cut and he sticks around for this season. That said, there will be some sort of savings here. Robinson can’t remain at his current price.
Steelers can restructure Alex Highsmith
Alex Highsmith has the best opportunity to have his contract restructured. He signed his new deal last year, so he still has quite a few years left on his deal to absorb the added cap hit in the future, and it allows for maximum savings this year. Restructuring him nets you roughly 7.2 million.
Steelers can cut Mason Cole
Mason Cole looked like a solid signing this time a year ago. While I was puzzled by his deal at first, he played well in his first season. He was arguably the most consistent lineman for the team. That wasn’t the case this year though, as everything from his blocking to his snaps were bad this year.
Cutting him saves the team 4.75 million, and while not as fruitful as some of the other moves, this is more due to his play. While gutting the center position is risky, Cole was a trainwreck for the team last year. He needs to go, and he saves you a nice chunk of change as well.
Steelers could cut Mitch Trubisky
The Steelers inked Mitch Trubisky to a new deal last offseason with the intent of him being the top backup for the next few years. The hope was that if an injury occurred, Trubisky could hold his own and the offense wouldn’t take too big of a hit in the short-term. That wasn’t the case when he was forced into duty this season, and he was replaced by Mason Rudolph.
You don’t save a lot of space by releasing him, only about 3 million in total after the dead money associated with him, but if he can’t perform the basics as a backup, you can’t justify keeping him. The offense hit its low point with him at the helm, so it is hard to see him with the Steelers in 2024.
Steelers could cut Patrick Peterson
I struggled with where to put Patrick Peterson on this list. On one hand, he didn’t live up to his expectations as a signing last offseason. His cornerback play was poor, and while he made some waves as a hybrid safety and slot defender, his tackling wasn’t great for either of those roles. On the other hand, the team seems to like the presence he brings as a veteran and the secondary is shallow right now.
You would save 6.85 million dollars by cutting him though, which is a significant chunk of change. Personally, I don’t think it is much of a debate, as the price isn’t worth the salary, but I feel like this team will be conflicted with Peterson this offseason.
Steelers could cut Damontae Kazee
On the flip side of things, the Steelers have a similar hybrid safety and slot player in Damontae Kazee who could be released to free up cap space. While Kazee has been a good role player, he is expensive for what he offers as a player. The team would net 3 million in savings by cutting him.
I would guess that it is an either-or scenario for the Steelers. If the team keeps Peterson, he will take on the safety and slot work. If Peterson is cut, Kazee will be held onto until a better solution is brought in. That said, cutting both nets you nearly 10 million in cap space total.
Steelers could cut Larry Ogunjobi
There hasn’t been a more disappointing player on the Steelers than Larry Ogunjobi. Signed to replace a retiring Stephon Tuitt, the hope was for a dynamic pass rush rusher to make an impact on this line early. He struggled there in year one and was a little better in year two, but it still wasn’t anything to write home about.
While the 6.2 million in savings is a nice start, cutting him makes the defensive line a really shallow group. Ogunjobi hasn’t been elite, but he also hasn’t been a liability. That said, if the team opts to rebuild the line as they did the linebacker room a year ago, Ogunjobi is a prime cut candidate.
The Steelers certainly won’t make all of these moves, but if they did it would net them nearly 50 million dollars in cap space. Expect quite a few of these moves to occur this offseason in order to free up cap space. This team needs it, as they have a lot of holes.