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For about the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in everyone's lives and it did the same to the NFL salary cap. The salary cap was $198.2 million in 2020 and with the league losing revenue this year with the limited amount of fans or no fans in stadiums due to the pandemic, plus other ways of creating revenue, there's a salary cap floor of $175 million in 2021.
Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the cap could be set at $180 million, but regardless it's most likely going to be significantly lower than last year's cap limit. The Steelers are not in good cap shape right now, but almost half the league isn't either. No one expected the cap to go down with the NFL increasing revenue every year. But the COVID-19 pandemic obviously changed things.
According to Overthecap.com, the Steelers are projected to be $34,981,664 over the cap, and that's not including the $5.2 million the Steelers will save with Vance McDonald retiring last week, so the Steelers are roughly $30 million over the cap with the cap limited being estimated at $176 million. The Steelers also have 19 players that are set to become unrestricted free agents in March and some will be looking for big paydays -- players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton.
Art Rooney II told reporters on Thursday that Ben Roethlisberger wants to come back and has told the team that, but Rooney said they can't do it at his current cap hit of $41.25 million. Roethlisberger understands that and told Ed Bouchette of The Athletic that he's going to do whatever he can to help the team and is willing to restructure his contract to lower his cap hit. Roethlisberger even told Bouchette that he doesn't care about how much he gets paid this year at all.
Roethlisberger's willingness to restructure his contract to free up money will certainly help, but it's still going to be a huge project for vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan to get the Steelers under the cap. Rooney said it will be the biggest challenge they've had in regards to the salary cap in a long time, possibly ever.
"We expect it to be much different. Let's put it that way," Rooney said about the salary cap for 2021 via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. "And I wish I could tell you I knew the time frame of it but I don't. I think that we're going to start to hear some things next week, but I don't know. I assume that we'll know something by the middle of February, and that'll give us the opportunity to have some time to think through what we need to do. But I think it's fair to say this will probably be the most difficult salary-cap challenge that we've had in a long time, maybe ever. It's going to be a busy offseason, that's for sure."