The Pittsburgh Steelers must be in compliance with the 2011 salary cap by Thursday. As of this morning, they were still approximately $10 million over the target of $120 million plus three $1 million exceptions. This coupled with a rash of last minute re-signings set off a round of renegotiations with players already under long term contract.
Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison were the big ticket items who agreed to alter their deals. Although let’s be clear, neither Big Ben nor Silverback are taking a pay cut. The Steelers simply employed an accounting trick to help alleviate some of the cap pressure. Signing bonuses are divided evenly over the term of the contract and that number in addition to the base salary are what count against the cap. By lowering the annual salary and paying a larger portion of the contract as a signing bonus, you can effectively lower your cap hit without changing the total value of the contract.
Once those two players and Bret Keisel (who is redoing his five year $18.885 million deal as well) have their deals rejiggered, the Steelers should come in just under the cap without having to release any additional players. The roster is more or less set with QB Dennis Dixon, RB Mewelde Moore, P Daniel Sepulveda and DT Chris Hoke all signed to one year deals yesterday. This comes on the heels of news we will get to enjoy the rap stylings of Will.i.am Gay for another season.
One year deals seem to indicate the Steelers view 2011 as a last run for the team which has appeared in two of the last three Super Bowls. Most if not all of these players won’t be back next season. With Bryant McFadden also in the final year of his deal, this leaves two of the team’s top three CBs as impending free agents. Gay’s lone season as a starter was nothing short of disastrous although he redeemed himself last year with a fairly solid showing at nickel. B-Mac has taken his place as the most victimized CB in the league last year, leaving the Steelers to hope Curtis Brown, Kennan Lewis, or Crezdon Butler emerge as viable options going forward. Good luck with that.
When you couple the expected roster turnover with the impending loss of Black and Gold mainstays like Hines Ward and Aaron Smith, the 2012 Steelers are shaping up to have a very different look. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, the band is back together. Let’s hope they go out with a bang.