Plenty of good teams have had salary-cap issues. The Steelers have cap issues, but they’re currently not a very good team.
Both last year (when they missed the playoffs) and this year (when they got off to a very sluggish start start), the Steelers had to push cap dollars into future years in order to comply with the current spending limits. Per a league source, the Steelers already have more than $125 million tied up in 2014 commitments.
The good news is that’s not nearly the same cap bulge they’ve dealt with in the past couple of years, requiring less intense effort to get things under control. But several veteran players have huge cap numbers for 2014, forcing the Steelers to decide sooner rather than later whether to try to once again to restructure (pushing cap dollars into future years) or to cut the cord and move on.
Tight end Heath Miller’s cap number for next year recently was pushed to $9.466 million. Safety Troy Polamalu’s 2014 cap number sits at $10.887 million. Cornerback Ike Taylor counts for $10.454 million next year. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has an $11.816 million cap number in 2014. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley will chew up $13.59 million.
The biggest contract of them all belongs to Ben Roethlisberger, who has a whopping $18.895 million tied to his name for 2014, the next-to-last year of his current contract.
Some of those guys will be cut, others will be kept with reduced cap numbers. Some may want out, depending on how badly the 2013 season goes.
That’s a dynamic the Steelers haven’t had to confront very often during the salary-cap era. What if one or more big-name, big-cap-number players decide to refuse to cooperate, forcing the team’s hand? In past years, players routinely have been willing to sign off on reshuffled deals that don’t reduce their total pay. If this season goes poorly, however, maybe some guys will decide they want out.
Either way, the Steelers are inching toward some tough decisions — and some of their iconic players could be, too.