PITTSBURGH -- "It's going to be a massacre next week all around the league." Does that include the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Once ESPN's Diana Russini sent out the tweet alerting everyone that free agency, or the week beforehand, was going to be headlined with big-name cut after big-name cut, the "what if" frenzy started immediately.
For the Steelers, their most suggested names to use as cap casualties are Joe Haden and Vince Williams. Williams would save them roughly $4 million and Haden $7 million.
Saving $11 million when you're roughly $15 million over the $180 salary cap floor makes a lot of sense, right? Add this to Ben Roethlisberger's eventual contract restructure and the Steelers are right back in the swing of things with money to begin signing their free agents.
But that money will go right back in the hands of players who need to replace Williams and Haden.
Haden is absolutely right. In order for the Steelers to make cuts but stay competitive, they need a strong inside linebacker and a reliable cornerback. If they cut these two, they'd need to replace them, and frankly, it'll likely cost them the same amount of money.
Cutting Williams means it's Robert Spillane's job, correct? With Spillane hitting the open market, the Steelers will need to offer him something decent enough to return to Pittsburgh. That number might not be $4 million, but it could be close - and should be close.
Which means Pittsburgh is right back to taking on the same cap hit.
Then, there's Haden. Cameron Sutton is the obvious replacement, correct? Well, what's Sutton's worth going to be? And does this mean Mike Hilton is gone if Sutton stays?
Haden signed a two-year, $22 million contract extension in 2019. Working under a restricted cap this offseason, we'll say the Steelers get an even better deal for Sutton and land him for somewhere around $8 or $9 million. Maybe even $7 or $6 million.
All before the brinks truck rolls into Pittsburgh to sign Hilton.
Now, the Steelers are masters of the salary cap. They know how to rework deals as well as anyone, and a strange salary cap year isn't going to change that. Could signing different players to replace Williams and Haden save money this season? Probably. But is it enough money to cut two keys pieces only to replace them with their backups? No.
Trust the process. Pittsburgh knows what they're doing and who they can move on from while staying competitive. This season isn't about surviving the salary cap, it's about winning a Super Bowl. That's the only reason Roethlisberger returned, and keeping Haden and Williams are key parts to that.