The 2021 NFL season officially came to a close with the Los Angeles Rams’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday night.
With that, the 2022 offseason is on deck, with what is expected to be a slate full of significant changes for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are interviewing candidates for a new general manager, have already replaced defensive coordinator Keith Butler with Teryl Austin, and will spend most of the rest of the offseason with the top priority being replacing retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
To start the offseason, Steelers Now is taking a look at the state of the team, from free agency, to the salary cap, to the draft, and the current status of the 90-man offseason roster.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have more salary cap space than they’re accustomed to entering the 2022 season, and they could make even more space, but it’s unclear if they have enough space to make a bigger splash than usual in the free agent marketplace.
The Steelers currently have just over $30 million in offseason salary cap space at the moment, with a team cap number of slightly over $215 million and a top 51 salary of just over $181 million, according to data from the NFLPA, Over the Cap and Steelers Now analysis.
But that doesn’t mean that the Steelers have $30 million to spend on upcoming free agents.
For one, that offseason cap figure is not a full picture of what space the Steelers will have come September 1. Teams can over-spend in the offseason, only to have to find a way to cut cap space before the start of the year. If the Steelers don’t want to be in that position, they can spend a lot less right now.
The team will have to account for almost $850,000 in workout bonuses, $2.75 million to sign its 2022 draft class, $1.65 million for the end of the Rule of 51, and approximately $3 million for its practice squad.
The Steelers also like to go into the season with at least $5 million in emergency funding in case they need an in-season injury replacement.
That leaves Kevin Colbert with just under $18 million to spend when free agency rolls around in March, but at least some of that will likely to go toward retaining some of the Steelers’ free agents.
The team has 21 free agents, including starters at wide receiver, right guard, right tackle, cornerback and strong safety.
Just retaining Joe Haden, Chukwuma Okorafor, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Trai Turner at their 2021 salaries would cost the Steelers over $20 million. That doesn’t include doing anything to address the departure of Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
The team entered the 2021 offseason needing to shed salary in a big way to get salary cap complaint, so the 2022 offseason will be easier going financially, but it will not be easy to improve the team from its 9-8 record in 2021, just based on the money available to spend in free agency.