Three Steelers players received future raises through their on-field performance in the 2021 season through the NFL’s proven performance escalator program.
The program gives raises to players in their fourth season, based on their performance in their first three seasons while competing under their rookie contracts.
The raises come in three levels. Level one is awarded when a player participates in over 35% (60% for second-round picks) of his team’s snaps in two of this first three seasons, or as an average of the total of his first three seasons.
Steelers 2019 draft pick Diontae Johnson had already reached level one entering the 2021 season.
Fellow wide receiver Chase Claypool and outside linebacker Alex Highsmith reached the level in 2020. Claypool played in 63% of the team’s offensive snaps as a rookie in 2020 and 70% this past season. Highsmith played in 43 and 73% of the team’s defensive snaps over the first two seasons. That means Claypool and Highsmith will receive a raise equivalent to the restricted free agent right of first refusal contract value in their fourth seasons in 2023.
To reach the second level, a player must participate in at least 55% of his team’s snaps in each of his first three season. Johnson reached that milestone in 2021, playing 84% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps. For that milestone, he will receive an additional $250,000 raise for 2022. According to OvertheCap.com, his estimated 2022 salary will now be $2.79 million, a raise of over $1.4 million from his original contract.
Both Claypool and Highsmith will be eligible for the additional $250,000 raise if they hit the 55% mark in 2022.
To reach the third level, a player must be selected for the Pro Bowl on the initial ballot in one of his first three seasons. Johnson went to the 2022 Pro Bowl, but as a roster replacement, and not a part of the initial ballot.
Three more Steelers players have not yet reached the first level, but put down a qualifying season toward that mark in 2021: 2020 fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson and 2021 rookies Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr. Rookie second-round pick Pat Freiermuth just missed the 60% threshold for second-round picks at 58%.
The Steelers will have had at least one player qualify for the raise in three consecutive seasons. Tackle Chukwuma Okorafor earned the PPE raise for the 2021 season.