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Updating the Steelers salary cap situation after restructuring Alex Highsmith’s contract

The Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling along through the 2024 league year. With the NFL Draft now complete, the Steelers made a move to free up some cap space which could allow them to take on a sizable contract should a potential trade be on the table. While reports come in about deals, it can sometimes take a while to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as (OTC) or, 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.

Remember, to determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Earlier this week, the Steelers freed up some salary cap space by restructuring Alex Highsmith’s contract. Highsmith was due to receive a $10.733 million base salary in 2024. The exact nature of the restructure currently varies depending on the source. OTC has the Steelers doing a full restructure to where only the league minimum salary of $1.125 million is left as a base with the other $9.608 million being converted into a signing bonus. That amount only counts $2.402 million towards the salary cap in each of the remaining four seasons on the deal, therefore Highsmith’s salary cap number is reduced by $7.206 million for 2024.

When it comes to Spotrac, they have Highsmith’s contract, saving exactly $7 million on the salary recap despite the original report being “more than $7 million” from Ian Rapaport. The way Spotrac has it structured is they added a void year to the contract and converted $8.75 million into a signing bonus. Because the Steelers haven’t added void years to a contract outside of the 2021 offseason, I do not believe this is the correct report so my numbers are based off of OTC until they make a change.

Because it was a restructure, there is no roster displacement and this is how much the Steelers have gained on the salary cap.

Note about the 2024 Draft: Now that it is known the Steelers made the picks where they were slotted and did not trade up or down, a better estimate of their cost can be calculated. Based on OTC’s Rookie Pool Estimates, the Steelers draft class will cost less than $2.3 million after displacement based on the current salaries in the top 51 which would be displaced. This number will now be reflected in the offseason estimate at the bottom of the article.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space after some of the most recent deals by my own calculations. The numbers below are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2024.

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $24.7 million

Breiden Fehoko: Reported $1.055 million; After displacement: -$0.26 million
Cameron Johnston: Reported $2.083333 million; After displacement: -$1.288333 million
Patrick Queen: Reported $6.113333 million; After displacement: -$5.297224 million
Diontae Johnson: Saves $10 million; No displacement: +$10 million
Donte Jackson: Currently $10.5225; No displacement: -$10.5225 million
Russell Wilson: Reported $1.21 million; After displacement: -$0.295 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $2.255 million; After displacement: -$1.34 million
Christian Kuntz: Reported $1.163333 million; After displacement: -$0.248333 million
DeShon Elliott: Reported $2.25 million; After displacement: -$1.335 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $2.125 million; After displacement: -$1.21 million
Kenny Pickett: Netted gain of $0.131099 million; No displacement: +$0.131099 million
Van Jefferson: Reported $1.1525 million; After displacement: -$0.2375 million
Justin Fields: Cap hit of $3.233448 million; No displacement: -$3.233448 million
Donte Jackson: New deal saving $4.5225 million; No displacement: +$4.5225
Quez Watkins: Reported $1.1525 million; After displacement: -$0.2375 million
Kyle Allen: Reported $1.1525 million; After displacement: -$0.2375 million
Dean Lowry: Reported $1.875 million; After displacement: -$0.96 million
Cordarrelle Patterson: Reported $2.25 million; After displacement: -$1.335 million
MyCole Pruitt: Reported $1.035 million; After displacement: -$0.100554 million
Matthew Wright: Reported $1.055 million; After displacement: -$0.07 million
Alex Highsmith: Restructure saving a reported $7.206 million; No displacement: +$7.206 million

Approximate salary cap space: Approximately $18.3 million

So how does my salary cap number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites?

According to (OTC), the Steelers are $18,345,353 under the salary cap. Having all the same contacts, we have the exact same number.

Another credible salary cap website is, which has the Steelers at $19,006,003. Spotrac also has all the contracts but has a slightly different number for Highsmith. Other differences are they do not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap. 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. The Steelers will need as much as an additional $15.3 million, with $13 million not needed until September. The Steelers are estimated to need about $2.3 million to sign their rookie class after displacement based on OTC’s estimates. Expenses in September include when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster (about $1.75 million), sign their practice squad (between $4 million and $4.5 million), and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year (about $7 million). But even taking these things into effect now, which they do not need to do as there are other moves which could be made to save some cap space, the Steelers have plenty of room in order to still be active in free agency following the draft.

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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