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Updating the Steelers salary cap situation after Alex Highsmith’s deal

The Pittsburgh Steelers have almost concluded their business for the 2023 offseason. With training camp only days away, there were a few items on the agenda that needed to get finished. One such order of business was a contract extension for Alex Highsmith. While reports came in about the deal, it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com (OTC) or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

Being this is the first salary cap update here at Steel Curtain Network, I’d like to take a moment to outline how I do things. I start just ahead of the league year with what I believe to be the Steelers salary cap space for the upcoming season. I get to a number based on several sources, but it usually falls in line with OTC when I view any causes for discrepancy. Then as every move is made, I keep a running tab on how it affects the salary cap. I am including that tab below to show how I get to my specific number.

As for the effect of Alex Highsmith‘s contract on the Steeler salary cap, the numbers reported by OTC means the initial reports were incorrect. While the amount of his salary was correct, it was reported that $27.7 million of the deal was guaranteed. But according to the numbers at OTC, the only guaranteed money is Highsmith’s base salary and signing bonus which comes in at $17.01 million. For this reason, Highsmith’s salary cap hit for 2023 is much less than initially believed.

Although the Steelers haven’t been doing it on every contract within the last year, Highsmith is receiving the league minimum base salary for his credited seasons of $1.01 million. Highsmith also received a $16 million signing bonus which, one prorated over the five years of the contract, comes to $3.2 million towards the salary cap each season. Since Highsmith still had $208,073 as a prorated bonus from his rookie contract, this amount also comes into play with his salary cap number for 2023. So when adding up the prorated bonus and base salary, Highsmith’s salary cap number for this season is only $4,418,073 according to OTC.

Since Alex Highsmith was originally set to count against the salary cap for $2,951,073 in 2023 before his new contract, this is only an increase of $1.467 million against the Steelers salary cap.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space after the Highsmith deal by my own calculations. The numbers below are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2023.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, all reported salaries displaced a $870k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately -$1.4 million

William Jackson III: Saved $12.1875 million salary; After displacement: +$11.3175 million
Carlins Platel: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Patrick Peterson: Reported $4.225 million; After displacement: -$3.355 million
Damontae Kazee: Reported $2.125 million; After displacement: -$1.255 million
Nate Herbig: Reported $2.54 million; After displacement: -$1.67 million
Cole Holcomb: Reported $2.72 million; After displacement: -$1.85 million
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Saved $10.065 million; No displacement: +$10.065 million
Elandon Roberts: Reported $2.3325 million; After displacement: -$1.4625 million
Myles Jack: Saved $8 million; After displacement: +$7.13 million
Larry Ogunjobi: Reported $4.933333 million; After displacement*: -$4.059333 million
Isaac Seumalo: Reported $4 million; After displacement*: -$2.740582 million
ADJUSTMENT (Dead money clarification): +$0.49333 million
James Pierre: Reported $1.3 million; After displacement*: -$0.401911 million
Le’Raven Clark: Reported $0.99 million; After displacement*: -$0.081194 million
Zach Gentry: Reported $1.232 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925 million
Keanu Neal: Reported $1.54 million; After displacement+: -$0.6 million
Breiden Fehoko: Reported $0.94 million; After displacement+: -$0
Armon Watts: Reported $1.0925 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
Jamir Jones: No cap savings: +$0
Braden Mann: Reported $1.01 million; After displacement+: -$0.07 million
Tanner Muse: Reported $1.01 million; After displacement+: -$0.07 million
Allen Robinson: Reported $3.0825 million; After displacement+: -$2.1425 million
Chandon Sullivan: Reported $1.0925 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
Arthur Maulet: Saved $2.75 million; After displacement+: +$0.85 million
Cory Trice Jr.: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Spencer Anderson: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Nick Herbig: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Darnell Washington: Reported $0.973438 million; After displacement+: -$0.033438 million
Alfonzo Graham: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Manny Jones: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Renell Wren: Injured reserve salary: -$0.475 million
Hakeem Butler: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Luq Barcoo: Reported $0.94 million; After displacement+: -$0 
Mason Rudolph: Reported $0.94 million; After displacement+: -$0 
Ahkello Witherspoon: Saved $4 million salary; After displacement: +$3.06 million
Dylan Cook: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Mitch Trubisky: Saved $4.613334 million; No displacement: +$4.613334 million
Toby Ndukwe: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Tae Crowder: Saved $1.01 million salary; After displacement+: +$0.07 million
Emeke Egbule: Saved $1.01 million salary; After displacement+: +$0.07 million
Master Teague: Salary not in the top 51: +$0
Marcus Golden: Reported $1.0925 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525 million
Scott Nelson: Salary not in the top 51: +$0
Nick Kwiatoski: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Rex Sunahara: Salary not in the top 51: -$0
Anthony Miller: Salary not in the top 51: +$0
Keeanu Benton: Reported $1.333295 million; After displacement+: -$0.393295 million
Broderick Jones: Reported $3.022975 million; After displacement+: -$2.082975 million
Alex Highsmith: Added $1.467 million; No displacement: -$1.467 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $11.3 million

*The salaries displaced by these four contracts were $874,000 (Jaylen Warren), $876,084 (Calvin Austin III), $898,089 (Mark Robinson), and $908,806 (Connor Heyward).

+The salaries displaced by these contracts are $940,000.

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to overthecap.com (OTC), the Steelers are $11,782,924 under the salary cap. OTC has everything I have listed above but they did not subtract the money from Renell Wren going on IR. This is because his salary is not in the top 51 at this time, but it will count for the Steelers throughout the season. Otherwise we have the same amount.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $10,836,432 under the cap. Spotrac has Wren’s full contract counting against the cap instead of the split contact amount. Also, Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap and their dead money amount is incorrect as they still have a dead cap hit for Joe Haeg. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hit for players not in the top 51 even though it does not need to count against the cap at this time until those players are officially released.

While the Steelers are going to need cap space for a number of things this offseason, it doesn’t have to be at this time. Joey Porter Jr. still needs to sign and it will cost just over $800k after displacement. Also, the Steelers will need as much as an additional $13 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster (about $1.7 million), sign their practice squad (between $3.5 million and $4.4 million), and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year (about $7 million).

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

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