Steelers Salary Cap Scheme Goes Up in Smoke

The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”

Don’t look now Steelers Nation, the wounds from the touturing suffered at the hands of the Titans are still smarting, but the Pittsburgh Steelers may have already dimmed their prospects for 2014.

That’s right, the impact of the injures the Steelers suffered vs. the Titans may reach into 2014 and beyond. And this has nothing to do with Larry Foote, Maurkice Pouncey and LaRod Stephens Howling’s prospects for recovery.

Each of those moves robbed the team of depth on a Steelers 2013 roster that was thin to begin with. But those injuries, along with Shaun Suisham’s pulled hamstring, forced Kevin Colbert to scramble for replace them with Jonathan Dwyer, Shayne Graham, and Fernando Velasco.

The Steelers routinely leave themselves some salary cap space to do some in-season roster shuffling, but when you need to sign three veterans it isn’t quite so simple, as Ed Bouchette’s tweet shows:

#Steelers convetr little over $3 M from Heath Miller‘s 2013 salary into bonus, which counts half this year, half next. Salary now $1,974,500
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) September 11, 2013

Normally restructuring a contract here and there isn’t a problem. But contract restructuring has become standard operating procedure on the South Side.

  • What the Steelers once mocked, they now embrace.

The problem with salary cap contract restructures is that they’re like using one credit card to payoff another – you only delay the inevitable. Kevin Colbert has said as much himself, and the Steelers, while restructuring deals this off season, had begun to step back from that process.

In addition, they made no moves to extend the contracts of any of their impending free agents. Ziggy Hood, Emmanuel Sanders are due for their second contract, and both probably could have been signed for less this past summer. Ryan Clark and Brett Keisel likewise are in their contract years.

  • But the Steelers offered no contract extensions this summer at St. Vincients

Part of this is prudence – simply waiting to see where these players are in terms of health and production at the end of the year instead of guessing.

  • But another part of it is salary cap driven. 

NFL rules allow a team to credit unused salary cap space from one season to another. The Steelers were rumored to go into 2013 with between two and three million in cap space. While they made no public statements to confirm this, part of the Steelers plans was to save this space with an eye towards 2014.

  • This cap consciousness is one potential explanation for the front office coaching split over Jonathan Dwyer

Now of course they’ve had to go and restructure Heath Miller’s contract, losing some if not all of that potential cap credit for 2014.

Alas, the Steelers can’t seem to catch a break.

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