Pittsburgh Steelers: Making Tough Roster Moves Key to Future

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IJanuary 11, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers: Making Tough Roster Moves Key to Future

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    The normal Steelers fans' offseason consists of worrying about who the Black and Gold are going to lose in the upcoming free-agent frenzy.

    Because of an unprecedented 2011 offseason, one that saw the Steelers give new contracts to LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu and Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers are in great shape heading into the 2012 offseason.

    Yes, they do need to reduce their salary by nearly $25 million between being over the cap and to sign free agents/draft picks. But, after the following moves are made, that should not be too much of a problem.

    Because the actual cap number for 2012 has not been reported as of yet and won't be until near the Super Bowl, there is no way of knowing what the exact number the Steelers will need to get under.

    Prior to the 2011 season, it was reported that the salary cap would be somewhere near the same level as 2011. With new deals with all of the networks, DirecTV and additional games that will expand the Thursday night schedule, most of that estimated $25 million may be taken care of.

    Either way, this article is based on the salary cap being near the $125 million range, which is just a slight increase over last year.

    (Steelers cap numbers are courtesy of ROTOWORLD Fantasy Sports)

Casey Hampton

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    Casey Hampton has been more than just a solid player for the Steelers. He has earned Pro Bowl appearances playing a position (NT) that most people over look.

    Even with the emergence of Steve McLendon, Hampton was a sure bet to return next season, especially after Chris Hoke was lost for the season, and possibly forever, to a serious neck injury.

    Now that Hampton has an "ACL injury," which most likely is a torn ACL, and will require surgery, the odds of keeping Hampton in 2012 are slim and none.

    2012 Salary: $4.89 million

    Prorated bonus: $0

    Cap Savings: $4.89 million

    Total Savings: $4.89 million

    Total Cap Hit: $0

    For those off you saying that the Steelers still have the prorated bonus money that will be deducted, signing bonus money is spread over the life of the contract, with the exception of the final year.  There is no signing bonus money applied to the final year, because teams normally sign their players with one season remaining, and they would take that money as a cap hit.

Chris Hoke

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    As stated in the previous slide, the neck injury to Hoke is most likely career ending. Though 2011 was the final year of Hoke's contract, the Steelers will not have to worry about re-signing him, as his career is likely over.

    2012 Salary: $0

    Prorated bonus: $0

    Cap Savings: $0

    Total Savings: $4.89 million

    Total Cap Hit: $0

James Farrior

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    In 2010, it became obvious that Farrior was no longer able to play against the pass, as his age had caused him to slow down to the point of not being able to stay with the backs he was assigned to cover.

    In 2011, he still played great against the run, but time has come for the Steelers to do what they do and allow a player to leave before it is too late.

    With the money that Farrior is due to make in 2012, the money just isn't there to keep him around to only be a situational player.

    2012 Salary: $2.825 million

    Prorated bonus: $0 (final year)

    Cap Savings: $2.825 million

    Total Savings: $7.715 million

    Total Cap Hit: $0

Hines Ward

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    It is always sad to see a legend leave, but Hines Ward has likely played his last down for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    With the youth and talent the Steelers have at the wide receiver position, there simply isn't enough room on the roster for someone the age and current skill set as Hines Ward.

    Unless he was willing to come back for league minimum and play the role of the fifth receiver, Hines will only continue his NFL career with another team in 2012.

    2012 Salary: $4 million

    Prorated bonus: $1.08 million

    Cap Savings: $2.9 million

    Total Savings: $10.6 million

    Total Cap Hit: $1.08 million

Aaron Smith

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    In the last three seasons, Aaron Smith has missed a total of 33 games, not playing in more than six in any one season.

    As great as he had been for the Steelers, there is NO WAY they can consider bringing him back in 2012. Though his contract is up, as much as he had meant to the Steelers would have warranted a return contract.

    After only playing in four games in 2011 before landing on IR, has ended that obligation.

    2012 Salary: $0

    Prorated bonus: $0

    Cap Savings: $0

    Total Savings: $10.6 million

    Total Cap Hit: $1.08 million

Arnaz Battle

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    Until starting my research on this article, I was not sure Battle was even still on the team.

    He is, but there is no way the Steelers are going to pay that kind of money for a player that does not even see the field.

    2012 Salary: $1.38 million

    Prorated bonus: $320,000

    Cap Savings: $1.6 million

    Total Savings: $12.2 million

    Total Cap Hit: $1.39 million

Larry Foote

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    Larry Foote is a back-up at best, and the Steelers will not pay starters' money to a player that hardly sees the field.

    Unless he is willing to take a big pay cut, Foote will not be back with the Steelers in 2012.

    2012 Salary: $3 million

    Prorated bonus: $0 (final year)

    Cap Savings: $3 million

    Total Savings: $15.2 million

    Total Cap Hit: $1.39 million

Chris Kemoeatu

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    Not only did Kemoeatu lose his starting job in 2011, when he did get playing time because of injury, he still seemed to regress as the season went on.

    Part of the reason is because he has a problem blocking without holding. Part of the reason is because of his inability of pass blocking.

    Either way, Kemoeatu is simply not good enough to justify his play.

    2012 Salary: $3.6 million

    Prorated bonus: $1.4 million

    Cap Savings: $2.2 million

    Total Savings: $17.4 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Bryant McFadden

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    McFadden's play in 2011 was good enough to get him off the regular defense and regulated to special teams. 

    The attitude and disappointment of Santonio Holmes in New York made this trade much easier to swallow. Either way, on a team with a lot of youth at his position, there is no chance the Steelers will keep McFadden at his current rate.

    2012 Salary: $2.5 million

    Prorated bonus: $0 (final year)

    Cap Savings: $2.5 million

    Total Savings: $19.9 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Lowering Salaries

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    There are other players that will reduce their 2012 cap numbers because they either

    1. Sign new contracts because they are nearing the end of their current contract

    or

    2. will agree to a "simple" restructure.

    A simple restructure is where they give the player most of their 2012 salary as a "bonus," and that money is counted against the remaining available years on their current contract.

    In a simple restructure, all of the salary, with the exception of the league minimum for his years in the NFL and any prorated signing bonus money, can be reduces to the bonus.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    So everyone knows, this is NOT Big Ben "Tebowing." Ben has done this before every game since joining the Steelers, and probably before then.

    Roethlisberger is set to make $11.6 million in 2012. Not a bad salary for the Steelers because Ben is one of the elite in the NFL, and that is not a bad salary for an elite QB.

    Ben is currently signed through 2016, so most likely with the salary going up in the next few years, Ben will do a simple restructure rather than a renegotiation.

    2012 Salary: $11.6 million

    Prorated bonus: $4 million

    Cap Savings: $7.6 million

    Total Savings: $27.5 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

James Harrison

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    Because of his age (33) and years remaining on his current contract (three), the Steelers will most likely elect to go with the simple restructure.

    2012 Salary: $5.3 million

    Prorated bonus: $1.8 million

    Cap Savings: $3.5 million

    Total Savings: $31 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Brett Keisel

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    With only two years remaining on his contract, the Steelers probably would have done a new contract with Keisel, especially since they have two first-round picks in the last three years to rotate with him.

    Now that his groin injury will likely require surgery, there is a chance that the only way he returns to the Steelers in 2012 is if he takes a reduction in salary.

    Add to that, with only two years remaining, the Steelers do not have the option of a simply restructure, so he is probably set to simply take less money.

    2012 Salary: $3.025 million

    Prorated bonus: $2 million

    Cap Savings: $1.025 million

    Total Savings: $32.025 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Heath Miller

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    Heath Miller is entering the final year of a contract he signed in 2009. Due to make $4.275 million in 2012, and because he is one of the most reliable players in the NFL at his position, the Steelers are most likely going to bring Miller back with a decent contract.

    Though there is no way of calculating the actual numbers, all I can do is estimate what the Steelers are going to be willing to pay, so I will look at the top five tight ends in the NFL, and base this contract off that.

    The top five tight ends (Miller is ranked sixth) come out to $6.4 million. The Steelers will probably give Miller a contract for five years at an average of $6 million.

    With that will be the guaranteed money of around $15 million and a signing bonus of around $12 million. With the average contract being low for the first two years, Miller will probably make around $2 million in 2012 (because his money is made in the signing bonus).

    2012 Salary: $2 million

    Prorated bonus: $0

    Cap Savings: $2.275 million

    Total Savings: $34.3 million

    Total Cap Hit: $2.8 million

Conclusion

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    Kevin Colbert has become the new general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first in their history. Yes, this year, it seems that the Steelers may be in some cap difficulties, but thanks to me, that has all been taken care of.

    All Colbert has to do is listen to what I am saying in this article, and he will be set for 2012 and beyond. The Steelers are in relatively good shape with having their best talent locked up beyond this year, and there is great reason to be optimistic about the Steelers heading into the future.

    If they want to hire me to take care of these tough decisions, please feel free to send me an email.