Last year, the Steelers had to cut players like linebacker James Farrior and receiver Hines Ward in order to get in line with the 2012 salary cap.
As Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains it, last year’s changes could be a “drop in the bucket” compared to what’s coming in 2013.
“The Steelers could lose every one of their free agents, and they might have to lose a few more veterans if they don’t agree to take less money in 2013,” Bouchette writes. “They are so far over the salary cap that they would not be able to fill a 53-man roster without doing all of that.”
Prime candidates to be cut include linebacker James Harrison, who has a base salary of $6.57 million in 2013. And while safety Troy Polamalu most likely won’t be released, his $7.5 million base salary puts him in line for, at a minimum, a new contract that pushes some of that money into future years.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has an $11.6 million base salary, could once again shuffle money around. But there’s only so much that can be done with only three years left on his deal; at some point, an extension will be necessary. (Meanwhile, an extra $2.675 million counts against this year’s cap after last year’s restructuring that freed up more than $8 million in cap space.)
The situation makes it crystal clear that receiver Mike Wallace will go elsewhere in March. As Bouchette points out, G.M. Kevin Colbert already has said the team won’t use the franchise tag on anyone, and that’s the only way they would have kept Wallace, who is destined to be overpaid on the first day of free agency by someone like the Dolphins.