Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing Kenny Pickett

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Minicamp
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Now that all of the Steelers 2022 draft class is under contract, one known expense has now been accounted for.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled up their 90-man offseason roster heading into the 2022 NFL season. While there still could be some significant swapping of players, there is always the chance something else changes things whether large or small. As reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they signed their final 2022 NFL draft pick with quarterback Kenny Pickett.

Since it was known this deal would be getting done, it was estimated how much Pickett would count against the 2022 salary cap. After the numbers came in that Pickett’s cap hit this year will be $2,557,801 according to spotrac.com, it is about $330k less than the estimate given by OTC pryor to the draft. This number actually makes a lot of sense as it is exactly the number between 19th overall pick Trevor Penning and 21st overall pick Trent McDuffie. With a base salary of $705k, Pickett has a signing bonus of $7.411 million which will be spread over the four years of his contract.

If you are looking for the salary cap implications of Larry Ogunjobi, an estimation will be included at the bottom of the article.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)


Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267
Trenton Scott: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
DeMarvin Leal: Reported $0.943072 million; After displacement+: -$0.048072
Bryce Watts: Released with $10k in dead money: -$0.01
Tuzar Skipper: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Stephon Tuitt: Saved $9.05 million salary; After displacement+: +$8.155 million
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Reported $8.124235 million; Replaced $10.612 million: +$2.487765 million
Kenny Pickett: Reported $2.557801 million; After displacement+: -$1.662801
Larry Ogunjobi: No specific report

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $21.4 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap


So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $23,106,733 under the salary cap. OTC does not have the new Pickett contract yet, but without it we had the exact same dollar amount.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $20,956,076 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts but also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

I have said in the past how he Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year. But there is one more expense that could add to the $5 million the Steelers like to take into the season (in years past). If the Steelers elevate players from the practice squad, they must receive a full game check. Taking this into account, along with significant increases in league-minimum salaries of players who could be added to the roster if another player is injured, the Steelers may want to carry as much as another $2-3 million into the season. For this reason, a more conservative estimate of what the Steelers need to have available to start the season is $13 million.

Based on this number, the Steelers could have at least $8 million above what they need for the 2022. Even though there could be some dead money in contracts with players not making the 53-man roster, it should be offset even more by larger contracts of players who are waived.

What about Larry Ogunjobi?

On Thursday, it was reported that the one-year deal the Steelers worked out with Larry Ogunjobi will be worth up to $8 million with part of the contract being incentives. This per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The two questions now with Ogunjobi‘s contract is how much of it is incentives, and are they in the category of ‘not likely to be earned.’ The NFL deems all incentives either as likely or not likely to be earned. Based on this designation, it determines whether or not the amounts will fall on this year’s salary cap. If an incentive is deemed not likely to be earned, It does not count on the 2022 salary cap and will go towards the 2023 cap if the player achieves the bonus. If the incentive is deemed likely to be earned, it counts on the 2022 salary cap and if the player does not earn the bonus then it is taken off of next year’s salary cap.

If all of Ogunjobi‘s incentives were deemed likely to be earned, he would count $7.105 million against the Steelers salary cap after displacement. This amount seems extremely safe to know that it is the most he could count, assuming the $8 million figure is correct.

Once the incentives and their designations are known, then an accurate figure to be given for exactly what Ogunjobi will count on the Steelers’ salary cap.

One item of note which may or may not mean anything is the NFLPA‘s salary cap report earlier this week had the Steelers with exactly $3.5 million less than what I expected their figure to be. Could this be how much Ogunjobi counted against the salary cap after displacement? It could be. If so, that would mean that Ogunjobi counted as $4.395 million in salary cap space (since the $3.5 million would be after roster displacement) for 2022 and would have approximately $3.605 million in incentives. I’m not saying this is what happened with his contract, but I’m saying that it is one possibility.

For this reason, I estimate Ogunjobi will count between $3.5 million and $7 million toward the 2022 salary cap after displacement. If I were to guess, I would not put his number being around $5 million unless the incentives are all deemed likely to be earned.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

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