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Asked and Answered

Asked and Answered: March 21

Let's get to it:

DANIEL MAZENKO FROM LITITZ, PA: Last week the NFL gave out performance bonuses based on number of snaps played. Which Steelers' players got the biggest bouses this year, and is that considered part of the salary cap?
ANSWER: The NFL describes the program this way: "Under the Performance-Based Pay program, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. Players become eligible to receive a bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down. In general, players with higher playtime percentages and lower salaries benefit most from the pool." The two Steelers to receive significant performance-based pay adjustments were Kevin Dotson, who received the seventh-highest amount ($746,013), and Dan Moore Jr. , who received the ninth-highest amount ($739,072). The Steelers were not charged those amounts to their salary cap.

LAZARO BROITMAN FROM SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA: Now that Devin Bush and Cam Sutton have left for other teams as unrestricted free agents, are we going to get a compensatory draft pick?
ANSWER: Compensatory draft picks are awarded based on a formula that considers a team's signings vs. losses during the bulk of an offseason. Those picks are not awarded on an individual transaction basis, and also, transactions during the 2023 free agent signing period will be considered for compensatory picks during the 2024 NFL Draft. And as of right now, having signed or agreed to terms with Patrick Peterson, Nate Herbig, Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, and Isaac Seumalo, I don't believe the Steelers will be getting any compensatory picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.

TIM WHEELER FROM MELTON MOWBRAY, UK: This time of the year there is always a lot of discussion about the salary cap. With some teams, notably the Chicago Bears, having significant cap space. I also have heard mention of a salary floor. How does that work?
ANSWER: Just as there is a number that a team cannot exceed in paying players over the course of a season, the NFL also has a salary floor, which requires all teams to spend at least 89 percent of the league's annual salary cap over a 3-season period. While a team can expect to be punished for going over the annual salary cap at any point during the league year, a team is not sanctioned for being below the salary floor unless it spends less than 89 percent of the salary cap over a 3-season period. Exceeding the cap is a far more serious penalty than not reaching the salary floor. But the salary floor does exist and there will be sanctions if it's violated.

DANIEL STEELE FROM TUMWATER, WA: What do you think the strategy or thought process was in not tendering any of our restricted free agents? Was it a cap issue? Or that we have other, better options?
ANSWER: As with most things in life, whenever the question has to do with, why, then the answer has to do with, money. The amount of the restricted free agent tenders this offseason are: $2.627 million for right-of-first-refusal; $4.304 million for second-round pick compensation; and $6.005 million for first-round pick compensation. I imagine the Steelers looked at those numbers and decided that none of their restricted free agents – J.C. Hassenauer, James Pierre, Steven Sims – were deserving of any of those numbers on a one-year contract that then would mean those players would become unrestricted free agents the following offseason and be able to hit the open market. In my opinion, it doesn't mean the Steelers have no interest in bringing any or all of those players to training camp this summer, but at this stage the team's preference would be to come to a different arrangement than having to absorb the entire amount of a 1-year contract on the 2023 salary cap.

DENNIS SLEEGER FROM YORK, PA: How does the restructuring of contracts save cap space? Is the team kicking the can down the road, so to speak?
ANSWER: That is exactly what is happening.

GREG BELCHER FROM GILBERT, WV: Seeing the news that Orlando Brown Jr. was in the mix to be signed by the Steelers, I didn't see how they had the salary cap space available to sign him. If the Steelers had signed Brown and it put them over the cap, would they have had a certain amount of time to get under the salary cap?
ANSWER: Based on my memory of this, the initial report of this "news" described the Steelers as being "in on" unrestricted free agent Orlando Brown Jr. That's a pretty vague characterization that could mean as little as a phone call to the agent asking to be kept informed in the case of any imminent activity. I would seriously doubt that being "in on" Brown meant the Steelers had a competitive offer on the table or were poised to participate in a multi-team bidding war, but it sure attracted the desired attention and wasn't a lie. And the NFL would not approve any contract submitted by a team that would put that team over the salary cap.

GIANNI D'ANGELA FROM WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA: Thoughts on letting Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky leave and bringing in Matt Ryan as a backup and mentor to Kenny Pickett?
ANSWER: First off, Mason Rudolph is an unrestricted free agent, and he is able to "leave" whenever he chooses. As for Mitch Trubisky, I would rather have him over Matt Ryan 100 times out of 100.

BRENT BRANCHAUD FROM CORONA, CA: I am sure it is a salary cap decision that benefits the team, but what does it mean when a team releases a player with a June 1st designation since the start of the new league year was March 15?
ANSWER: Each team is allowed to release two players each league year with a June 1st designation, which allows the team to spread out any existing dead cap charge over an additional season instead of having to take the whole amount on the current year's cap.

SHAWN FRISKY FROM PICKERINGTON, OH: Of the Steelers' new players via free agency, I can't help but notice that Patrick Peterson, Cole Holcomb, and Elandon Roberts all happened to be captains on their previous teams. Is that something you figure was important while looking at free agents?
ANSWER: The Steelers have had some issues when adding veteran free agents – LeGarrette Blount and Melvin Ingram being recent examples – but they've also added some who were assets on the field and in the locker room – DeAngelo Williams and Jericho Cotchery being recent examples. Adding individuals who were captains on their previous teams adds to the level of comfort.

RAYMOND CHASON FROM CONNEAUTVILLE, PA: Steven Sims became a free agent when the Steelers didn't present him with a tender as a restricted free agent. Do you feel we should re-sign him and for what type of deal?
ANSWER: I would be in favor of Steven Sims coming to training camp to compete for a roster spot and the role of slot receiver/returner. As I explained to a previous question about this situation, I am guessing the Steelers want to do something that will cost them less than $2.627 million against their cap on a 1-year deal.

COREY BATES FROM BRANCHPORT, NY: I have never seen a team clear out most of its players at one position like the Steelers have this offseason at inside linebacker. I'm cautiously nervous. How much money was saved by not re-signing our inside linebackers?
ANSWER: As of March 20, the scorecard at inside linebacker had Devin Bush (Seattle) and Robert Spillane (Las Vegas) leave as unrestricted free agents, while Myles Jack was released. Signed were Cole Holcomb (Washington) and Elandon Roberts (Miami). I wouldn't characterize any of the moves as being purely financially motivated, but rather all of them had to do with the Steelers looking to upgrade that area of their defense. Certainly, salaries are involved, but I would describe it as more of a strategy to increase bang-for-the-buck at inside linebacker as opposed to simply shedding salary.

SHAWN BARGER FROM BETHLEHEM, PA: In this first week of free agency, there was a lot of turnover within the defense with Devin Bush, Cam Sutton, and Robert Spillane signing elsewhere, and Myles Jack being released. New faces have been brought in that add in different levels of experience. How will each unit within the defense go about building new team chemistry with all of these changes?
ANSWER: Chemistry within a team, or within units on a team has to develop organically. It's not something that can be planned or staged. Once the players assemble for the start of the offseason program, the new guys will be exposed to the holdovers, and vice versa. Then shared things such as on-field workouts and time in the locker room will reveal the personalities of the individuals. Based on the kind of people the Steelers already have in their locker room and what the additions have revealed about themselves so far, I don't envision chemistry being any kind of an issue in 2023.

ROY PATRICK FROM KINGSVILLE, TX: Do you think that the Steelers will draft a tight end or sign one in free agency? If so, is it possible that the team would consider re-signing Zach Gentry?
ANSWER: Currently, the Steelers have Pat Freiermuth and first-year pro Rodney Williams under contract, with Connor Heyward entering his second NFL season as an intriguing chess piece who could be utilized in a variety of ways. The Steelers aren't going to enter training camp without adding to that position, but I think whomever they add there is going to be more in the mold of a role player instead of a featured component, and that he will command an appropriate slice of the salary cap.

TREVOR BENNETT FROM PEMBROKE, VA: When reality sets in on Zeke Elliott and he doesn't get the money he'll be looking for in free agency, is Pittsburgh a realistic landing spot for him?
ANSWER: Hahahahahahahaha. You're a funny guy.