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ESPN Picks Best Fits for Steelers Free Agents Like Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster

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With the start of free agency just over a month away, ESPN has released their best fits for the Top 50 players available, including Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

Even though he has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation could prevent them from resigning Smith-Schuster.

As a result, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler sees the New York Jets as a reasonable destination for the 24-year-old, citing Smith-Schuster as a perfect fit in new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s scheme. Smith-Schuster would make a reliable target for quarterback Sam Darnold or whoever the Jets select with the No. 2-overall pick, filling the role occupied by Deebo Samuel in the San Francisco 49ers offense.

Rated as the seventh-most coveted free agent this cycle, ESPN projected Dupree to the Tennessee Titans. While he is still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his 2020 season, Dupree’s recovery appears to be going as planned.

Dupree would provide a significant lift to a lackluster Titans pass rush that mustered just 19 sacks a season ago.

Villanueva’s Steelers tenure also appears all but certain to come to an end this offseason, another casualty of the team’s financial situation.

ESPN sees the 32-year-old fitting in nicely with the Los Angeles Chargers, who have been searching for their left tackle for some time. The move would also reunite Villanueva with former offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who was hired as the Chargers’ assistant offensive line coach a few weeks ago.

The Steelers could also lose one of their slot cornerbacks in Mike Hilton or Cameron Sutton. In response, the franchise could pluck a former division rival to slide into their roles.

After missing out on him by one pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, ESPN believes the Steelers could finally get their hands on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Will Jackson III in free agency.

In addition, starters Steven Nelson and Joe Haden are aging and set to hit free agency themselves in 2022. Signing the 28-year-old would give the Steelers a proven veteran with significantly less tread on his tires for years to come.

Jackson recorded three interceptions and 41 passes defended over four seasons in Cincinnati.

Steelers

Steelers Estimated $3.6m Under Salary Cap after New Contract for Ben Roethlisberger

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The Steelers have are salary cap compliant and have an estimated $3.6 million in breathing room after renegotiating the contract of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday, according to contract figures reported by NFL Network, salary cap data from OverTheCap.com and Steelers Now analysis.

Roethlisberger’s contract, which is technically a five-year deal, but will last only through the 2021 season before being voided will save the team $15.3 million under the 2021 salary cap.

Though the Steelers are finally in the black with regards to the 2021 salary cap, they will still likely need to make additional moves to shore up extra salary cap space. The team will need over $8 million in space to sign its 2021 NFL Draft class, the final two players for the 53-man roster and a practice squad. Only the top 51 contracts count toward the cap in the offseason.

The Steelers’ estimated $3.6 million in cap space is based on a $180 million salary cap, which is based on Steelers Now sources on several national reports. The final salary cap figure for 2021 has not yet been made official.

The team has a three contracts that can be restructured, those of defensive end Stephon Tuitt, kicker Chris Boswell and fullback Derek Watt, that could save the team around another $6 million.

The contracts of guard David DeCastro and cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson could also be extended or re-negotiated. All are entering the final season of their contract.

The Steelers have two dozen pending free agents, including starters Tyson Alualu, Zach Banner, Jordan Berry, James Conner, Bud Dupree, Matt Feiler, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Alejandro Villanueva and key reserves Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. 

Starting center J.C. Hassenauer and backup inside linebackers Marcus Allen and Robert Spillane are exclusive rights free agents. Backup outside linebacker Ola Adeniyi and wide receiver and kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud are restricted free agents.

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Report: Ben Roethlisberger Took $5m Pay Cut, Lowers Cap Hit by $15m

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed to a new contract for the 2021 season on Thursday and details of the deal are now being reported.

Roethlisberger agreed to a $5 million pay cut as part of a new contract that will technically run through 2025, with the final four seasons becoming void after 2021. 

Roethlisberger was set to earn $4 million in salary and a $15 million roster bonus for 2021, none of which was guaranteed. Instead, he will earn $1.075 million in salary, with $12.925 million converted to guaranteed signing bonus. That signing bonus will be spread over the initial five years of the contract.

That means that Roethlisberger will count for a total of $25.91 million against the Steelers’ 2021 salary cap, a savings of $15.3 million. The details of Roethlisberger’s contract were first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

After the final four years of Roethlisberger’s contract are voided, the Steelers will have $10.3 million of dead money, which will count against the team’s salary cap in 2022 or will be spread out between 2022 and 2023.

Roethlisberger, 39, had a strong season statistically in 2020, passing for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play slide as the team dropped five of its final six games.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ all-time leader in passing yards (60,349), touchdowns (396), completions (5,050) and wins (156).

Steelers Now’s Alan Saunders contributed salary cap information and graphic to this report.

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Steelers Sign Ben Roethlisberger to New Contract for 2021

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have agreed on a new contract for the 2021 season, the club announced Thursday.

“We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,” General Manager and Vice President Kevin Colbert said. “We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same – to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.”

While exact details of the new deal have yet to be reported, it can be assumed that the two sides came to terms on a significant restructuring to have Roethlisberger’s contract fit under the team’s bloated salary cap for 2021.

Roethlisberger was set to count over $41 million towards the Steelers’ 2021 salary cap obligations prior to Thursday’s announcement.

It is also important to note that the contract is not an extension, but simply a one-year deal to keep Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh for the upcoming 2021 campaign.

“It is my greatest honor to be a Pittsburgh Steeler and give my all for this organization,” Roethlisberger said. “I am grateful to be at this stage of my career and more than happy to adjust my contract in a way that best helps the team to address other players who are so vital to our success. I love this game and love to compete, and I believe in this team and my ability to deliver when called upon. It all starts with great preparation and I am ready to go.”

Roethlisberger had a fine season statistically in 2020, passing for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play dip as the team dropped five of six games to close the year.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ all-time leader in passing yards (60,349), touchdowns (396), completions (5,050) and wins (156).

Roethlisberger turned 39 years old on Tuesday, March 2.

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