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Feb. 22—The first of what could be several contract restructures occurred Monday when the Pittsburgh Steelers reworked the contract of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
According to an NFL Network report, Heyward had most of his $10.5 million in salary for 2021 converted to a signing bonus that will be spread over the remaining four years of his deal. By restructuring the contract, the Steelers will shave $7 million off their salary cap this season.
That is important because, according to projections by spotrac.com, the Steelers were $14.2 million over a theoretical $185 million salary cap before the Heyward restructure. The salary cap for 2021 can go no lower than $180 million, in which case the Steelers would need to shave off an additional $5 million in cap obligations.
The Steelers found themselves in dire financial straits this offseason because of the coronavirus pandemic drastically reducing stadium revenues in 2020. The result is the salary cap will drop from $198 million in 2020 to an amount that will be determined before the start of the new NFL calendar year March 17.
The Steelers can afford to push salary cap obligations into 2022 because they have only 17 players under contract for a cumulative $58 million.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could provide the biggest savings under a reworked contract that lessens his $41.25 million salary cap hit, which includes $22.5 million in "dead money" in 2021. If Roethlisberger retires or is released, the Steelers would save $19 million in salary obligations.
The two sides are expected to meet soon to discuss Roethlisberger's future.
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt and kicker Chris Boswell are two other veterans with contracts that could be restructured. By restructuring Tuitt's contract, the Steelers could clear another $4 million in cap space. A Boswell restructure would free another $1 million for 2021. Fullback Derek Watt is another possibility to have his contract extended, provided the Steelers don't release him before he receives a $1 million roster bonus March 19.
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Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .