The Pittsburgh Steelers are still $8.5 million over the salary cap despite the willingness of players like Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Heath Miller, Chris Kemoeatu and Brett Keisel to restructure their contracts to free up salary cap space under the new collective bargaining agreement.
After releasing veterans Flozell Adams, Max Starks and Antwaan Randle El to cut costs, and making additional free-agent signings of their own players, the Steelers still find themselves over the cap as of this morning.
Or do they?
According to the Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, the team has already done everything they need to meet the demands of the new salary cap.
How can this be so if the bottom line shows the Steelers $8.5 million over the allotted number?
It’s a matter of timing.
Because of the altered rules on player contracts due to the lockout-shortened offseason, those that sign new contracts are not eligible to practice until the players ratify the new CBA. Which is exactly why Steelers fans have not seen the likes of Ike Taylor, Willie Colon, Jonathan Scott or Shuan Suisham on the practice field in Latrobe thus far.
If the current players that have agreed to restructured contracts were to be announced before the ratification of the new CBA, they would then become ineligible to participate in team practices.
While all teams are required to become cap compliant by 4 p.m. on Friday, and the Steelers appear to be light-years away from doing so, Colbert and the Steelers front office have played a shrewd game in a complicated process.
By not announcing the restructured contracts of their high-priced veterans, the Steelers have enabled as many players as possible to practice with the team, something that would have been impossible had they inked the contracts prior to the ratification of the new CBA.
Players are expected to ratify the deal sometime Thursday. If all goes according to plan, the Steelers will then have until tomorrow afternoon to finalize the restructured contracts, thus avoiding anyone missing what little practice time the team has before preseason games begin.
While finalized numbers have not been disclosed concerning the restructured contracts, it does not look as though the Steelers will need to make any further salary cap related cuts. In fact, the new numbers may allow the team to consider approaching released tackle Max Starks about a new contract.
Starks has been one of the better offensive linemen on the Steelers roster in recent years, but after signing a high-dollar deal, he has spent more time on the IR than on the field and the Steelers felt it was time to cut the fat.
If Starks is agreeable to a reduced salary with incentives, he may yet find himself in black and gold in 2011.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JCyprowski.