Contracts Steelers Must Consider Cutting in 2022 Offseason

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2022

Contracts Steelers Must Consider Cutting in 2022 Offseason

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers made it to the postseason this year but were quickly ousted by the Kansas City Chiefs. On Sunday, they watched as the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals knocked off those same Chiefs to advance to Super Bowl LVI.

    If the Steelers are going to make a significant playoff run in 2022 and challenge the Bengals in the division, they are going to have to make some notable changes.

    On change will come at quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger retired Thursday, leaving the door open for a new quarterback. Pittsburgh must also revamp its 24th-ranked defense and 29th-ranked rushing attack if it hopes to be a contender.

    The Steelers are in a solid cap situation, with a projected $32 million in cap space. However, they may still consider cutting some players in order to provide more financial flexibility for the coming changes. With this in mind, let's examine three contracts that Pittsburgh should consider dumping this offseason.

LB Joe Schobert

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    Justin Berl/Associated Press

    Joe Schobert was a solid run-stopping linebacker for the Steelers in 2021. He tallied 112 tackles and 70 solo stops, and he does have value as a second-level defender. However, Schobert is not an impact-play specialist and can be a liability in coverage.

    Schobert had no sacks this past season and only two tackles for loss. According to Pro Football Reference, he allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 90.0 in coverage. With the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020, he allowed an opposing passer rating of 110.0.

    While Schobert is solid, the Steelers should be looking for more of a playmaker at the linebacker position. They should also look to save valuable cap space by cutting or at least reworking Schobert's contract.

    The 28-year-old is set to carry a cap hit of $9.7 million in 2022. The Steelers can save nearly $8 million by parting with Schobert, and the savings will grow in the future. He is set to carry cap hits of more than $11 million in both 2023 and 2024.

    Again, Schobert is a solid player, and if Pittsburgh can bring him back at a reduced salary, it would make sense. His current price point, however, does not.

QB Mason Rudolph

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    As the Steelers look to move on from the Roethlisberger era, they may consider keeping backup quarterback Mason Rudolph. He has starting experience and has been in the Pittsburgh system since 2019. However, if the Steelers are able to land a promising signal-caller in the draft—or perhaps a free-agent veteran with upside like Jameis Winston—they should consider letting Rudolph walk.

    The reality is that Pittsburgh knows what it has in Rudolph, and it's not a lot. At best, he's a low-end game-manager with a career passer rating of 80.9 and an average of just 6.2 yards per pass attempt.

    Rudolph also lacks the mobility that head coach Mike Tomlin would love to have behind the Steelers' inconsistent offensive line.

    "Man, quarterback mobility is valued not only by me but everyone," Tomlin told reporters in his postseason press conference. "It's just a component of today's game and increasingly so."

    Pittsburgh shouldn't be eager to muddle its quarterback competition with a player it knows isn't the future at the position. Releasing him would save a modest $3 million in cap space, but it would also open the door for a quarterback who might be a proper heir to Big Ben.

RB Benny Snell Jr.

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    While the Steelers may keep Rudolph as an insurance policy, they have little reason to do the same with running back Benny Snell Jr. Rookie Najee Harris was a true workhorse back in 2021. Snell, meanwhile, played only a limited role.

    During the regular season, Snell carried a mere 36 times for 98 yards. He caught two passes all season. He averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.

    Moving on from Snell wouldn't save a ton of money against the cap. The 23-year-old is only set to carry a cap hit of $1.1 million, and releasing him would save just $965,000. However, it would also open up an opportunity for a more dynamic complementary back—likely one targeted in the draft—who can serve as an explosive change of pace behind Harris.

    Snell has never been a big-play runner for the Steelers—he has a career average of 3.5 yards per carry. Pittsburgh needs to add one to its offense to field a more productive rushing attack in 2022.


    Cap and contract information via Spotrac.