The defense has been the calling card of the Pittsburgh Steelers for decades.
While there have been several legends who have played for the team on offense, it was their ability to shut down opponents that helped them become the team to beat in the 1970s.
Since then, various iterations of an elite defense have emerged in Pittsburgh.
For the 2022 season, the Steelers are poised to have a gritty unit that will prevent opponents from scoring.
But as they solidify their defensive unit, retaining their top players translates to spending tons of money.
The Steelers now possess two of five highest-paid defenders in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/YuR3siNY6R
— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) June 26, 2022
The Behind The Steel Curtain Twitter account revealed that the Steelers have two of the five highest-paid defensive players in the NFL based on annual average value.
Reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt is averaging $28 million annually after agreeing to a four-year, $112 million deal before the 2021 season.
His average is $3 million less than Aaron Donald, who is averaging $31.7 million after the Los Angeles Rams added more money to his existing contract.
Meanwhile, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick cracks the top five after signing a four-year, $73.6 million deal, making him the highest-paid player at his position.
Steelers Still Have Cap Space For 2022
But while the Steelers have spent big with the contracts of Fitzpatrick and Watt, they are still around $20 million under the salary cap.
Cameron Heyward has the second-highest cap hit with $17.4 million while Watt leads the way with $31.1 million.
Fitzpatrick’s lucrative extension takes effect in 2023 because the Steelers exercised their fifth-year option for him in 2022.
Yet he will still earn over $22 million due to the way NFL teams move money around to fit in the salary cap.