The Steelers have one the NFL’s higher-profile groups of pending free agents but are well over the projected 2021 salary cap. They also have yet to determine how they will proceed with Ben Roethlisberger and his $41MM cap number, further complicating matters.
Longtime starters Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Alejandro Villanueva and Mike Hilton are a month from free agency. The Steelers could keep one of these players off the market with the franchise tag, but GM Kevin Colbert said Wednesday (via Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola, on Twitter) it is doubtful the team uses the tag this year
Dupree received the tag last year but suffered a torn ACL midway through the season. The Steelers had a worse tag experience in 2018, when Le’Veon Bell did not report and skipped the season. The team has used its franchise tag in three of the past four years, with Bell being tagged twice.
Prior to any Roethlisberger resolution, the Steelers are $30MM-plus over a projected $180MM cap. While the cap may come in a bit higher, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to precede a significant cap reduction. This will be only the second time the cap has gone down in its near-30-year history. Barring extensions in the next month, the free agent market will be flush with recent Steeler first-stringers.
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