With the Steelers post season hopes all but gone, it’s time to take a peek into next season. This team will have lots of work to do to get back into playoff contention. One of the first orders of business will be to take a long look at the Steelers 2023 cap hits, and decide whether to keep or cut some high paid veterans. Here’s our look into who stays, and who may be a cap causality next season:
1. The big four: TJ Watt ($29 million) Cam Heyward ($22 million), Minkah Fitzpatrick ($18 million), Diontea Johnson ($16 million)
Obviously none of these players is going anywhere in 2023. This represents the core group of the team right now. There may be some restructures here however. If the Steelers feel the need for more cap room, one or more of this group could have their deals redone going forward.
2. Chuks Okorafor: ($13 million) Keep
Chuks is set to cost $13 million against the cap, with a dead cap charge of $6 million. Meaning the Steelers could save roughly $7 million dollars against the cap if they were to cut him. This contract was designed as if it were several one year deals inside a long term contract. It gives the team the option to cut Okorafor at any point without a burdensome cap hit. Having said that, there is no way this team cuts their starting right tackle. There are far too many holes to fill elsewhere, and Chuks is playing quite well at the moment. He is guaranteed to be back in 2023.
3. William Jackson III: ($12.75 million) Cut
There is absolutely no way William Jackson III comes back at this number. Pittsburgh can get out of this deal with virtually no dead cap whatsoever. The only way Jackson is a member of the Steelers next year is if he accepts a very team friendly contract restructure. This is a player who has not played a single down since being acquired from the Commanders, and it is still up in the air if he will ever play a single snap this season.
4. Myles Jack: ($11.2 million) Keep
Despite the fact that the Steelers could save $8 million by moving on from Jack, its a safe bet that he will be back. With Devin Bush likely gone, and not much behind him, the team is going to need to hold onto their only veteran inside linebacker. Injuries have slowed Jack considerably this season. It is reasonable to assume a better year in 2023.
5. James Daniels: ($11 million) Keep
Perhaps one of the best free agent signings of the Kevin Colbert era, James Daniels isn’t going anywhere. He has been a key cog in the remarkable turnaround of this team’s run game. This is a player they can build around going forward.Key to fixing the Steelers run game? Invest in the offensive line
6. Mitch Trubisky: ($10.6 million) Cut
The Steelers could do a lot worse at the backup quarterback position, but the price tag is a little much for that position. If the two sides could strike a deal on a restructure, we’d be all for a return. It’s more likely that Trubisky will want out so he can try to find a starting job elsewhere.
7. Mason Cole ($6 million) Keep
Another fine off-season signing by Kevin Colbert here. Admittedly it’s a low bar replacing Kendrick Green as this team’s starting center, but Cole has been pretty good this season. There’s no reason to replace him in 2023, although drafting his eventual successor would be a good idea for the Steelers.
8. Levi Wallace and Akhello Witherspoon ($5.4 million each) Keep/Cut
We lump these two together because of all the similarities. Both player have the same cap hit, same dead cap, and play the same position. At this point we would keep Levi Wallace, and cut Akhello Witherspoon. Wallace is solid, if not spectacular. Witherspoon is boom or bust, with mostly bust as a member of the Steelers.
9. Best of the rest:
There are a few other smaller cap hits that the Steelers could take or leave for 2023. Players like Montravius Adams, Gunner Olzweski, Arthur Maulet, and Mile Killebrew all make less than $3 million, and could be cut with very little dead cap. Most of them will likely to be back to at least compete for a roster spot. None will make much impact either way nest season.