After a red hot start to the 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to shore up some unfinished business in 2021.
They won their first 11 regular season games last year, only to lose four out of their last five, and get trounced during Wild Card Weekend by the division-rival Cleveland Browns.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has tried to bolster the roster this offseason to help the team get over the hump.
He selected running back Najee Harris in round one of the 2021 NFL Draft in hopes of playing ball control down the stretch next year, among other moves.
However, like basically every roster in the NFL, Pittsburgh is not without its financial albatross’ that prevent the organization from spending elsewhere.
We’ll examine three players whose cap hit figures might be holding the team back this season.
3. Derek Watt
— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) December 27, 2020
To be clear, it’s not like Derek Watt’s salary is supremely prohibitive in 2021.
The least famous of the three Watt brothers is only set to count a shade under $3 million against Pittsburgh’s cap next season.
He’s also the type of gritty player that fans in the Steel City easily root for and fall in love with.
However, with the vast majority of NFL teams choosing to not even deploy a fullback on their roster, the choice to keep Watt around to play an obsolete position seems questionable.
Colbert deserves credit for minimizing Smith-Schuster and Fitzpatrick’s blow to the cap, but it seems like Watt’s allocation could be better used somewhere else.
2. Chris Boswell
It’s mildly amusing to pick on a fullback, and then a kicker, in subsequent spots here.
All in all, it probably means that the Steelers are doing pretty well with managing their finances.
With that said, longtime Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is set to count at $4.7 million against the cap next season.
That’s higher than any other kicker in the NFL except for Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens.
Devaluing the skills of a kicker is low hanging fruit, but it certainly seems like Pittsburgh could get by at the position with a cheaper alternative.
Boswell was super accurate last year, only missing one field goal attempt—but he only attempted one try over 50 yards.
Something doesn’t feel quite right when a guy is compensated as well as Boswell is but is not trusted or not capable enough to convert from distance when the offense bogs down.
1. Ben Roethlisberger
It’s quite common for quarterbacks to eat up a large percentage of their team’s salary cap, since that’s just the nature of economics at the position in 2021.
Future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger is set to count at just under $26 million next season.
While his career accomplishments and worth to the franchise and the city are not remotely in question, it’s a little hard to comprehend why Roethlisberger might not have wanted to take a little less money this season.
At age 39, the only goal Big Ben and the Steelers have is to win another Super Bowl, and re-signing for a sizable salary holds the team back from filling out the roster.
Roethlisberger goes deep to Harris and yells “jump and get it,” after letting it fly. Harris doesn’t high-point the catch. Roethlisberger responds with an arms-raised jumping gesture. Coaching moment from vet to rookie. Value of OTAs (they also let Watt catch one at the end). pic.twitter.com/8LIxqmk0m7
— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) June 1, 2021
Roethlisberger is certainly much better than any other quarterback on the roster, but struggled to maintain his rhythm in December and January last year.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t dream of moving or releasing him (nor should they), but his cap figure is probably much higher than what the team would have liked.