Trying to get a consensus on a way to determine a team’s actual salary cap space is a difficult task. There are simply too many factors going on at any given time. One thing we know for sure is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be over the cap going into the 2018 off-season. That is made even more daunting when you consider the fact that the team still needs to get Le’Veon Bell under contract. If Pittsburgh intends to use the franchise tag on Bell, tack on another $14 million of cap space that will need to be carved out. The easiest way around this problem is to begin cutting other unwanted salaries. Here is the top 5 most likely candidates to be a cap casualty if the Steelers choose this route:
5. Markus Gilbert – $4 million possible cap savings: This isn’t a very likely move by the Steelers, but it’s worth considering. Gilbert is just another in a long list of drama filled players this team could do without. It started in training camp by him being sued for a physical altercation with a car attendant, then a PED suspension was added to the mix later on. Gilbert also missed several games due to injury in what was a miserable season for the Steelers starting right tackle. Having said all that, the Steelers would have to be very confident in Jerald Hawkins to make such a move. Chris Hubbard did an excellent job filling in for Gilbert during his many missed games. He did so well in fact, that re-signing him would probably eat up most of the money saved by cutting Gilbert in the first place.
4. J.J. Wilcox – $3.1 million possible cap savings: Be sure to wave goodbye to Wilcox on his way out the door because there is no way he’s coming back at this number. He gave the team very little at safety, and had a few costly penalties on special teams. The Steelers will likely draft a safety at a far cheaper price.
3. Mike Mitchell – $6.4 million possible cap savings: Anyone who reads me regularly knows I’m no fan of Mitchell. He’s never been an outstanding safety to begin with, and now he appears to have lost a step. The problem is the team has absolutely nobody to replace him. Drafting this position has to be one of the top priorities for the Steelers. Even without a replacement in-house, the combination of cap savings and declining play is just too much to overlook.
2. Vance McDonald – $4.3 million possible cap savings: In the list of tough off-season decisions, this one is right up there. Vance McDonald was head and shoulders the best tight end on the team in 2017. McDonald became a real weapon in the passing game as the season went on. Not only that, but he was also the best run-blocking tight end on the roster. Keeping all that in mind, the Steelers could probably get away with Jesse James as their starting tight end in 2018. They have plenty of other offensive weapons to turn to, and the over $4 million in savings could be put into good use elsewhere.
1. Joe Haden – $8.1 million possible cap savings: Haden represents the single highest cap savings the Steelers can reasonably find. The issue then becomes how comfortable are they with Artie Burns and Cam Sutton as their starting corner backs in 2018? Burns has been inconsistent at best, and Sutton has zero experience as a starter. The team could always try to restructure Haden’s deal to save a portion of this money while retaining the player. Either way, Haden is not likely back at his current cap number.