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How Much Salary Cap Space Did Steelers Save by Cutting Keanu Neal?

It doesn’t seem likely that the Pittsburgh Steelers release of veteran safety Keanu Neal on Thursday was salary cap motivated.



Steelers Salary Cap S Keanu Neal
Steelers safety Keanu Neal against the Jaguars, Oct. 29, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers got some extra salary cap wiggle room with the release of strong safety Keanu Neal on Thursday, but not enough that it appears to be the primary motivator for the move.

The Steelers saved $2.25 million in 2024 salary obligations by releasing Neal, but added $460,000 in dead cap charge. The roster displacement by the addition of cornerback Cory Trice to the Top 51 contracts means the team actually netted only $1.43 million in extra cap space by making the move.

That’s not enough to figure that the Steelers were pinching pennies by releasing the veteran safety. The fact that he was released with a failed physical designation suggests that Neal is still not recovered from the rib injury that ended his 2023 season. That, the fact that Neal and Damontae Kazee did not do a great job of replacing Terrell Edmunds at strong safety, and a very good crop of free agents at the position were likely the impetus for the team moving on from Neal.

Because he was released with a failed physical designation, the Steelers also could be on the hook for all of Neal’s salary if he doesn’t eventually sign with another team for 2024.

At the end of the day, assuming Neal does play elsewhere this season, the Steelers have about $10.3 million in 2024 offseason salary cap space, according to Steelers Now‘s estimate.

That number can be misleading. Before the start of the 2024 regular season, they will need to pay workout bonuses, sign their rookie class, account for the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, sign a practice squad, account for players on the injured reserve and leave space for in-season acquisitions. All told, the Steelers likely need to clear another $9.5 million or so from their 2024 salary cap commitments.

They have several avenues of achieving that savings, as the team can cut, restructure, or extend the contract of several veteran players, including Cam Heyward, Allen Robinson II, Patrick Peterson, Larry Ogunjobi, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Alex Highsmith.


Functional 2024 cap space (est.) -$9,509,202 T.J. Watt $30,418,694
Cam Heyward $22,406,250
Estimated 2024 NFL salary cap $255,400,000 Minkah Fitzpatrick $21,355,000
Steelers 2023 salary cap rollover $2,340,191 Diontae Johnson $15,833,334
Steelers 2024 salary cap (est.) $257,740,191 Alex Highsmith $13,933,000
Larry Ogunjobi $13,283,333
Top 51 salaries $237,399,713 Allen Robinson II $11,917,500
Dead cap hits $9,999,653 James Daniels $11,166,668
Isaac Seumalo $10,191,666
Offseason cap space (est.) $10,340,825 Patrick Peterson $9,775,000
Cole Holcomb $7,640,000
Draft pool $3,112,827 Nate Herbig $5,460,000
End of rule of 51 $1,830,000 Chris Boswell $4,720,000
Practice squad (est.) $4,000,000 Elandon Roberts $4,667,500
In-season buffer/injured reserve (est.) $10,000,00 Najee Harris $4,151,460
Workout bonuses (placeholder) $907,200 Damontae Kazee $3,875,000
Kenny Pickett $3,836,701
Broderick Jones $3,778,719
Dan Moore Jr. $3,235,000
Joey Porter Jr. $2,185,988
Pat Freiermuth $1,918,057
George Pickens $1,841,506
Keeanu Benton $1,666,619
DeMarvin Leal $1,414,608
Darnell Washington $1,216,798
Isaiahh Loudermilk $1,135,072
Calvin Austin III $1,111,084
Nick Herbig $1,083,231
Denzel Mims $1,055,000
Connor Heyward $1,023,806
Mark Robinson $1,013,089
Jaylen Warren $989,000
Jonathan Marshall $985,000
Kyron Johnson $985,000
Luq Barcoo $985,000
Dez Fitzpatrick $985,000
Marquez Callaway $985,000
Thomas Graham Jr. $985,000
Josiah Scott $985,000
Spencer Anderson $934,446
Devery Hamilton $915,000
Jeremiah Moon $915,000
Jalen Elliott $915,000
Trenton Thompson $915,000
Darius Rush $915,000
Rodney Williams II $915,000
Ryan McCollum $915,000
Kalon Barnes $915,000
Nate Meadors $915,000
Dylan Cook $915,000
Cory Trice $816,109

Salary figures from Steelers Now sources, the NFLPA, and