Ben Roethlisberger among several Steelers restructuring their contracts ahead of NFL free agency

On Monday, the Steelers shaved about $15 million off of their salary cap with Ramon Foster’s retirement and the team’s decision to release OLB Anthony Chickillo, ILB Mark Barron and receiver Johnny Holton. The Steelers have to get to the NFL’s salary cap limit of $198.2 million by 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Pittsburgh, according to Over The Cap, was still $13.5 million over the cap limit on Tuesday morning.

With the Steelers needing to cut more cap weight, several veterans, Ben Roethlisberger included, have agreed to restructure their contracts in order to give the team more breathing room. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, kicker Chris Boswell, and tight end Vance McDonald have each restructured their contracts over the past two days. These transactions helped the Steelers shave off about $35 million in cap space.  

With regard to McDonald, this likely means that he will remain with the Steelers after reports surfaced last month that Pittsburgh wouldn’t pick up his option if he didn’t restructure his contract.

This isn’t the first time that Roethlisberger, among the NFL’s highest paid players, has restructured his contract just before the start of free agency. In Feb. of 2018, Big Ben restructured his contract — converting some of his salary into bonus money — and helping the Steelers shave about $6 million off of their salary cap. 

Pittsburgh has seen two veterans come off the books over the past two days. Javon Hargrave, the team’s starting DT since 2016, reportedly agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Eagles late Monday night. On Tuesday morning, it was reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo that ILB Tyler Matakevich — another member of the Steelers’ 2016 draft class — will reportedly come to terms on a two-year deal with the Bills worth up to $9 million once free agency opens on Wednesday.

While they’ve been working to get under the salary cap, the Steelers did make a financial commitment on Monday, placing their franchise tag on OLB Bud Dupree that will pay him about $15.829 million for the 2020 season, per CBS Sports contributor Joel Corry. Dupree and the Steelers now have until July 15 to come to terms on a long-term deal.

The Steelers will also try to sign OLB T.J. Watt to a long-term deal at some point this offseason. The team’s first round pick in 2017, Watt recorded 14.5 sacks and a league high eight forced fumbles last season. Conversely, the Steelers are expected to wait until next offseason when it comes to an extension for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will be slated to become a free agent in 2021. 

In free agency, Pittsburgh is expected to pursue a veteran receiver to help add depth and leadership to the room. The Steelers will also likely look to sign an ILB after losing Barron and Matakevich in consecutive days. The Steelers will also look to add depth to their offensive line, safety and tight end positions, either in free agency or during the draft. Expect the Steelers to add to their running back room during the draft.

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