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Big Ben Alters Deal, Steelers Inch Closer To Salary Cap

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Omar Khan is a freakin’ genius. With all due respect to Kevin Colbert, if I owned the Pittsburgh Steelers I’d send an armored car to his house and tell them to throw bags of money on his front lawn. The Black and Gold are damn lucky he pulled himself out of consideration to be the next GM of the Rams. I mean, it’s entirely possible he’d have Matt Millen-like success at evaluating free agents and drafting players (okay, nobody could be that bad) but as far as managing the salary cap goes, nobody is better.

Ben Roethlisberger has become the latest and by far most important veteran to rework his contract. Get this, his new deal reduces his cap hit next season by $8 million dollars. EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS. I thought only politicians and corrupt Wall Street scumbags could make that much money disappear overnight?

With the big contract extension he signed back in ’08 about to kick in this year, Big Ben’s salary was due to jump to $11.6 million in 2012. Khan was able to drop that number by once again working the loophole in the NFL’s cap rules which allow a team to spread a player’s signing bonus over the length of the contract. The upside for the player is bonus money is guaranteed, regardless of whether he’s still on the team.

By lopping another $8 million of salary of the books, the Steelers should now be right at the projected 2012 cap. The Steelers had to be under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 8th or they would’ve been thrown in NFL jail. And if you thought the warden on Oz was harsh, you definitely don’t want to mess with the Ginger Dictator.

The Steelers still have to clear some cap space for rookie contracts, contract extensions and possibly bringing in a free agent or two. Hines Ward has already said he’d be willing to re-do his deal so I’m sure the team will take him up on that. Why Aaron Smith and Chris Kemoeatu remain on this team is beyond me. Smith is by all accounts a great guy but not only is he old and injury-prone, the team doesn’t need him. You could argue they need Kemo, what with being paper thin along the offensive line, even though paying him roughly half a million bucks per false start ($3.5 million) feels like jabbing a pencil in my eye.

Those questions can wait for another day. At least by reworking all these contracts, the Steelers can shift their focus from worrying about salary cap compliance to evaluating their roster and targeting areas to be addressed through the draft/free agency. Make no mistake, this team still has a lot of work to do. The core is still strong but they need to address some of their age and depth issues if they hope to avoid a repeat of last year’s ignominious campaign.