The Steelers went for reinforcements on Saturday, signing wide receiver Deon Cain and running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. to their active roster and waving linebacker Jay Elliott and running back Tony Brooks-James.
The Steelers suffered injuries at both positions on Thursday, with James Conner again suffering a shoulder injury and Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster leaving with concussions.
Cain, in his second pro season out of Clemson, was signed by the Steelers off the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad. He had just been waived on Nov. 9.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound receiver was the Colts’ sixth round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but tore his ACL in his first preseason game, ending his rookie season. This year, Cain played in seven games and made three starts for Indianapolis, but had just four catches for 52 yards on 14 targets.
Whyte, a rookie out of Florida Atlantic, was signed from the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. He was the Bears’ seventh-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, but was released at the end of the preseason. In four preseason games, he had 18 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Brooks-James, a rookie out of Oregon, played in his third game with the Steelers on Thursday night and had one carry for a 4-yard loss against the Cleveland Browns. He had six carries for 11 yards on Nov. 10 against the Los Angeles Rams. Brooks-James also returned two kickoffs for 32 yards on Thursday.
Elliott played in his fifth game for the Steelers in Thursday’s loss to the Browns. Signed earlier in the day on Thursday, Elliott received eight defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps after not practicing all week. He was on his fourth stint with the team this season.
The Steelers will still be short at outside linebacker, as Anthony Chickillo (rib cartilage) did not play on Thursday and Ola Adeniyi left the game with a concussion.
The Steelers’ 53-man roster is full after the transactions. The team does have a vacant spot on its practice squad after promoting wide receiver Tevin Jones on Thursday.
Report: Ben Roethlisberger’s Agent Says He Will Return in 2021
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner reportedly says he will return as the team’s quarterback in 2021, according to NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Kinkhabwala tweeted Tuesday she had spoken with Tollner, who confirmed the Steelers want Roethlisberger back in the fall, and will soon reach out to his agent to rectify his massive cap hit.
“As we’ve shared since the season ended, we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible,” Tollner told Kinkhabwala. “A year ago, Ben wasn’t sure if he could throw again, but he battled back to get 12 wins and the 8th division title of his career. They lost steam down the stretch and that doesn’t sit well for him, so the fire burns strong and there is plenty of gas in the tank.”
Roethlisberger’s $41 million cap hit is the largest in the league entering the 2021 season, which poses a significant obstacle for the Steelers. He could forgo up to nearly $18 million of his salary for this upcoming season to provide the team some much-needed breathing room.
Roethlisberger finished with a successful season statistically in 2020, but was plagued by inconsistency, as the Steelers dropped five of six following an 11-0 start.
The two-time Super Bowl champion passed for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions, but saw his play drop over the latter half of the year.
Roethlisberger is set to turn 39 years old on March 2.
Report: Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger Met to Discuss Future
The Pittsburgh Steelers met with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to begin discussions on his contract situation for the 2021 season, according to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
Roethlisberger met with team president Art Rooney II and the meeting “went well,” according to Dulac.
The two sides had not come together to discuss Roethlisberger’s future since just after the end of the 2020 season in January.
Rooney and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert have said that Roethlisberger and the team will need to come to an agreement on contract modifications that will reduce his salary cap hit for the 2021 season.
Roethlisberger is currently set to cost more than $41 million toward the team’s salary cap in 2021. Of that, almost $19 million is able to be modified through either a salary reduction or an extension to move some of that money to 2022 or beyond.
The Steelers are approximately $12.4 million above a projected $180.5 million salary cap, according to a Steelers Now estimate. The official salary cap for the 2021 has not yet been released, but is expected to be between $180 and $185 million, according to Steelers Now sources. NBC Sports reported on Tuesday that it could come it at $182-183 million.
The Steelers will need to be under the maximum salary by March 17. Reducing Roethlisberger’s cap hit is just one of several ways the Steelers can get under the cap figure.
They can also restructure more contracts, as they did with defensive tackle Cam Heyward on Monday, but restructuring alone will not solve the cap issue.
Steelers Remain $12 Million Over Salary Cap after Cam Heyward Restructuring
The Pittsburgh Steelers remain an estimated $12.4 million dollars over the 2021 salary cap after restructuring the contract of defensive lineman Cam Heyward, according to salary data from OvertheCap.com and analysis by Steelers Now cap expert F.S. Fisher.
The restructuring of Heyward’s contract, along with the retirements of tight end Vance McDonald and center Maurkice Pouncey since the end of the 2020 season, has the Steelers down to $197.8 million of salary obligations for 2021, Steelers Now estimates.
The 2021 salary cap has not yet been set. It will be no less than $180 million after the NFL and NFLPA reached an interim agreement last week. The Steelers will roll over $4.95 million of unused cap space from 2020 over into the new year.
Steelers Now’s estimate that puts the team at $12.4 million in the red is based on a salary cap of $180.5 million. NBC Sports reported on Monday that the cap is expected to be between $182 and $183 million.
The team must get under the salary cap maximum by March 17, which is the start of the new league year, but the team’s salary cap woes won’t be finished at that point. The team must also make enough room to sign the 2021 rookie class and to fill the final two spots on the 53-man roster, as only 51 salaries are counted in the offseason. The Steelers will likely need at least an additional $8 million to accomplish all of that.
The Steelers only have a couple more contracts that they can restructure in a similar fashion to Heyward’s. Re-working the deal of defensive end Stephon Tuitt could save $4.2 million, kicker Chris Boswell could save $1.2 million and fullback Derek Watt $1.1 million.
Other savings will have to either come from re-negotiated contracts, where the team convinces a player to take a pay cut, contract extensions, or outright releases.