The "Shutdown Countdown" is going full steam ahead. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $124.423 million (23rd-largest in the NFL)
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $4.403 million (9th-lowest amount in the NFL, as of July 20, 2013)
[Related: Steelers stand pat, hope for the best]
Best Bargain: In April, the Steelers matched the one-year offer sheet the New England Patriots had made to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, a 2010 third-round pick out of SMU who has 94 receptions for 1,290 yards and five touchdowns in 40 games over the last three seasons. Sanders is coming off his best season, starting seven of 16 games and catching 44 passes for 626 yards and one touchdown in 67.67 percent of the Steelers' offensive snaps. According to Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted stats, Sanders' 141 receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) was 32nd among NFL receivers.
Austin will earn $6.732 million in cash this season, while Hartline will take home $7.715 million in the first season of a five-year, $30.775 million contract that contained $12.5 million in guaranteed money. Sanders is slated to earn $2.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary and will earn less cash this season than nearly 50 receivers in the NFL.
Potential Camp Cap Casualty: As the Steelers always seem to do, several veterans — Ben Roethlisberger, Lamarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Antonio Brown — renegotiated their contracts to clear up cap space. Other candidates to renegotiate and create additional cap remain (Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Heath Miller), but two players who could be true "cap casualties" in August are veteran defensive end Brett Keisel and safety Ryan Clark. Of the two, Keisel is the most likely casualty as he turns 35 in September and the team is looking for 2011 first-round pick Cameron Heyward to step up and earn a larger role this season. Keisel is entering the final season of his contract and is due $2.825 million base salary.
Releasing Keisel would save $3.225 million in cap space as $400,000 in incentives currently counts against the Steelers' cap. The Steelers lack depth at safety, so Clark is likely safe. The 33-year-old is also in the final year of his deal and his release would save $3.75 million in both cash and cap space.
Looming Contract Issue: Ben Roethlisberger has two years and $23.7 million remaining on a 2008 contract extension that will have earned him over $76 million by the end of the 2013 season. (Roethlisberger lost nearly $2 million in salary during his four-game suspension at the start of the 2010 season) With cap numbers exceeding $18 million in each of the next two seasons, next offseason might be the right time for the Steelers to consider extending the 31-year-old quarterback's contract.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The "Top 51" contracts on the Steelers' roster account for $127.7 million in salary cap commitments in 2014. Pittsburgh will also be carrying $4.3 million in "dead" money from the "post-June 1" release of guard Willie Colon, so the the team will want as much carryover cap amounts as possible and a sizable increase to the league-wide cap number to avoid a roster purge.
Previous salary cap outlooks
32. Oakland Raiders
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
30. Arizona Cardinals
29. Buffalo Bills
28. Cleveland Browns
27. Tennessee Titans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
25. New York Jets
24. San Diego Chargers
23. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Miami Dolphins
21. St. Louis Rams
20. Minnesota Vikings
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18. Dallas Cowboys
17. Detroit Lions
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- Emmanuel Sanders