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- Updating the Steelers salary cap situation heading into the 2023 regular season
Updating the Steelers salary cap situation heading into the 2023 regular season
The Pittsburgh Steelers have all 69 players under contract heading into the 2023 regular season. With their 53-man roster set and 16 players signed to the practice squad, their week of preparation for Week 1 will now commence.
But with all these different moves as everything came together, where did it put the Steelers in regards to the 2023 salary cap? Do they have enough money heading into the season to conduct the business they would potentially need to do?
For those who have followed my salary cap articles, I begin a running tab at the beginning of the league year in order to keep track of everything. But with the changing of the requirements from being the top 51 salaries which count towards the salary cap to now everything having to count, listing out all the names and all the moves isn’t just unnecessary but almost impossible. Instead, I’ll take a look at the different categories of where the salary cap has changed since the Steelers cut down to 53 players.
After setting their initial 53 man roster on Tuesday, the Steelers made soon made a move and added cornerback Desmond King. The corresponding roster move was the release of punter Braden Mann which was not surprising at all. What is interesting is a Steelers actually saved a little bit of money against the salary cap by adding King in place of Mann.
Braden Mann had a base salary of $1.01 million with no dead money as this was his base salary when the Steelers picked him up off waivers in the offseason. Desmond king signed a veteran salary benefit contract with the Steelers for one year where he is paid $1.08 million but only counts $940 K against the salary cap. So in swapping the two players, the Steelers actually saved $61k against the cap.
Players on injured reserve
Although I have been accounting for these salaries throughout the process, the four players on the Reserve/Injured List (IR) now officially count towards the 2023 salary cap. All four players— Chapelle Russell, Rennell Wren, Cory Trice, and Alfonzo Graham— all have split contracts to where they are paid a reduced rate while on IR. In all, the four player’s contracts total $1,896,109 towards the salary cap.
On top of the players on IR, the Steelers also reached an injury settlement with four players during the preseason. Between Cody White, Ja’Marcus Bradley, Hakeem Butler, and Duke Dawson, the Steelers paid out a total of $243,056 in injury settlements which now count towards the salary cap.
52nd and 53rd salaries
As I mentioned continually throughout the offseason, the final two salaries when the Steelers cut down to 53 players would be in addition to their salary cap number once the moves were made. The final two salaries on the Steelers in terms of their salary cap number for 2023 are Spencer Anderson and Dylan Cook who’s combined cap numbers total $1,519,446.
Compiling data from both spotrac and OTC, the Steelers have four of their 16 players making a higher amount by being a vested veteran ($370,800 for the season) while 12 players receive the typical practice squad salary ($216,000 for the season). In adding up these numbers, the Steelers current cost for the practice squad for the 2023 season is $4,075,200. These amounts are paid out weekly to the players, so if a more expensive player is added in place of a non-vested veterans, or it is done the other way around, this number could fluctuate throughout the season.
UPDATE: On Monday morning, OTC added the final three practice squad players to their salary cap for the Steelers and only had three players at the vested veteran rate (not Qadree Ollison). Around noon, Spotrac changed their number as well. Now both sites have the Steelers with $3,920,400 toward the practice squad, $154,800 less than the previous report.)
Salary differences of released players
As expected, the Steelers had a number of players who were not in the top 51 salaries during the offseason that made the team. Players such as Jaylen Warren, Calvin Austin, Connor Heyward, Nick Herbig, and Mark Robinson were expected to make the team but their contract did not count against the salary cap until 4 PM Tuesday. Instead, they replaced other players who were in the top 51 who did not make the team such as Zach Gentry, Tanner Muse, Nick Kwiatoski and a number of others. This also includes the two players that the Steelers traded in Kevin Dotson in Kendrick Green. But with some of these players who were released, they also rolled dead money for the 2023 season from any signing bonuses these players have made with the Steelers. While it’s not impossible to calculate the differences of players who fell out of the top 51 salaries and those that moved in, it seems a bit futile to track those exactly (plus I missed my opportunity to have those exact numbers available before they were gone).
Although I don’t have an exact the difference in number for these moves into the top 51 salaries, I will say the Steelers added dead money from Kendrick Green, Kevin Dotson, Zach Gentry, Le’Raven Clark, Tre Norwood, Tanner Morgan, David Perales, James Nyamwaya, Monty Pottebaum, Jordan Byrd, and B.T. Potter. Adding their dead money amounts to those from other players throughout the offseason and cuts from the Steelers in 2022, the Steelers current dead of money total is $13,904,127. If you’re looking at a website such as OTC, they included injury settlements in their dead money total and this is why the figures are slightly different.
How much cap space is there?
After breaking all that down, it is now time to get to the overall purpose and what everyone ultimately wants to know. Based on my calculations, I have the Pittsburgh Steelers current salary cap space as slightly over $6.48 million (including the adjustment from the update above). During the offseason, I gave an estimate of about $7 million that I believe the Steelers might want to carry into the 2023 season. In 2021, I had been using $5 million as the number and had kept it steady for several seasons. But starting last season, I upped the amount due to increased minimum salaries and the cost of elevating players from the practice squad on game day. Since I’ve likely aired on the side of caution, the Steelers could be completely confident heading into 2023 with this amount of salary cap space.
If the Steelers think the numbers are a little tight, a small restructure of a player that wouldn’t really change much, such as a T.J. Watt, could free up just enough of what the Steelers think they could additionally need. The Steelers could take a small about of Watt’s $20 million base salary and add it as a signing bonus to free us some space. For example, converting $3 million into a signing bonus would save $2 million for 2023 while only adding $1 million each to 2024 and 2025. While this is entirely possible, it may not be necessary and therefore the Steelers might be content rolling into the 2023 season with their current amount.
For those who like to look at the salary cap websites, some of them differ slightly from my number. At OTC, their current cap number is $6,538,470. Our only differences at this time is they do not have the reported reduced cap number from Gunner Olszewski which was announced last week, and they still do not have the final three players who were added to the practice squad on Saturday (after the update of those three players, their number is $5,890,470 with our only difference being Gunner Olszewski’s contract). As for Spotrac, there reported number of the Steelers salary cap space is $10,800,393. While I often have differences from Spotrac such as them not taking into account offseason workouts, an incorrect dead money hit from Joe Hague which has been on the books for months that and has not been corrected, and a few differences in dollars here or there, the biggest reason their cap number is so high is because even though they have calculated the 2023 practice squad they have not actually subtracted it from their total.
As I often say to close out my salary cap articles, if there are any questions please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer promptly.
For a full breakdown of all the numbers, check out a special Monday edition of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast: