Steelers Salary Cap Situation after Mitch Trubisky Extension
The Pittsburgh Steelers saved over $4.6 million in 2023 salary cap obligations by agreeing to a three-year contract extension with quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky had been set to court for $10.625 million against the Steelers’ 2023 salary cap rolls, with an $8 million salary and the remaining $2.625 million of his signing bonus from 2022.
That salary has become fully guaranteed, with $1.08 million becoming his base salary for 2023, and the other $6.92 million becoming a signing bonus, which will be spread over the new three-year deal, according to contract details first reported by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
That will reduce his cap hit for 2023 to $6.011 million. The contract, worth $19.25 million overall, will pay Trubisky $5.25 million in 2024 and $6 million in 2025 in non-guaranteed salary and roster bonuses.
With Trubisky’s new deal on the books, almost all of Omar Khan’s recent flurry of activity can now be accounted for. The new deals of Mason Rudolph, Luc Barqoo and Hakeem Butler have not yet been reported, but they are unlikely to move the cap number by more than a few hundred thousand dollars.
The Steelers’ top 51 salaries now sit at approximately $199.37 million, along with $13.25 million in dead money. The Steelers also have an approximately $850,000 workout bonus placeholder and are currently slated to pay Renell Wren $475,000 while on injured reserve.
That adds up to $213.96 million in current salary cap obligations, compared to a team cap of $229.23 million. So the Steelers have $15.27 million in current salary cap space.
But the team has future expenses that must be accommodated. The club has not yet signed its top three draft picks, which will cost approximately $3.49 million after roster displacement. The end of the rule of 51 will bring two more contracts onto the rolls, for another $1.88 million, and the team will spend approximately $5 million in signing a practice squad.
The Steelers also will need to leave themselves with a buffer in order to be able to place players on injured reserve (remember, in the NFL, players on IR still count against the salary cap) and acquire in-season replacements — approximately $10 million.
That leave the team just over $5 million over their magic number at the current moment.
There are ways for the Steelers to reduce that figure. They can release more veteran players. Releasing nose tackle Montravius Adams, safety Miles Killebrew and wide receiver Gunner Olszewski would likely get the team close to the number.
But the club also wants to sign outside linebacker Alex Highsmith to a contract extension. That is likely to increase his current $2.95 million 2023 salary cap hit.
So the club will likely be forced to restructure at least one contract of a player on a multi-year deal. They have several options there, with outside linebacker T.J. Watt able to clear $12.6 million, Cam Heyward $7.3 million and Diontae Johnson and Chuks Okorafor between $4 and $5 million. Restructuring contracts saves the team money in 2023, but does so at the expense of increasing those players’ cap hits in future years.
So the Steelers are not in a dire salary cap situation, and in fact, it’s better than it has been in many recent seasons. But their recent savings by releasing Ahkello Witherspoon and extending Trubisky does not mean that Khan is suddenly flush with cash to use on the free agent market.