Steelers' Updated 2021 Salary Cap After T.J. Watt's Reported 4-Year, $112M Contract

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 9, 2021

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 29:  T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during training camp at Heinz Field on July 29, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally locked down defensive star T.J. Watt after agreeing to a four-year, $112 million extension that includes $80 million fully guaranteed, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk provided a yearly salary breakdown of the new deal, which features $36 million coming in 2021:

  • 2021: $1 million, fully guaranteed (plus $35 million signing bonus)
  • 2022: $24 million, fully guaranteed
  • 2023: $20 million, fully guaranteed
  • 2024: $21.05 million
  • 2025: $21.05 million

Despite the lofty contract, the Steelers still have enough room under the salary cap for 2021:

Neal Coolong @NealCoolong

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Steelers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Steelers</a> often announce deals as extensions, after keeping the current contract in place. It was a solid bet to expect a signing bonus in the $35-40M range. That would put his cap number around $17-18M this year. Wouldn't leave more than $2-3M in space, but...fit like a glove.

Watt initially had a $10.1 million cap hit in 2021 from the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, per Spotrac. He could have hit free agency next season if the two sides didn't work out a new deal. 

The Steelers had about $10.3 million worth of cap space for this season entering Thursday, per Spotrac

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger helped give the Steelers more flexibility in the cap earlier this offseason by restructuring his deal, taking a $5 million pay cut while saving $15 million in cap space. 

On Wednesday, the veteran said he wanted that money to go toward Watt.

"I think T.J. should get whatever the heck he wants," Roethlisberger said. "He's arguably the best football player in the game right now, not just on defense, just in general.

"One of the reasons I took less money was for guys like him to get paid, and he needs to get paid. He deserves every penny that he wants and asks for. T.J. Watt is that guy that should get whatever he wants."

Watt led the NFL with 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss last season and has 49.5 sacks in his first four seasons in the league. He has three Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro selections in this span.

The contract could lead to cap issues in the future, with Roethlisberger, Watt, Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Minkah Fitzpatrick all holding at least a $10 million cap hit in 2022.