Steelers create cap space by re-signing Polamalu, Miller
The Steelers went from salary cap challenged to nearly salary cap compliant on a busy Wednesday by assuring Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller of at least one more season but refusing to give one to defensive signal-caller Larry Foote.
Foote, a three-time Super Bowl starter and two-time NFL champion, was released along with failed third-round pick Curtis Brown and offensive tackle Levi Brown. The two Browns combined to play all of one snap on offense or defense last season.
Safety Will Allen, a valuable role player who returned to the Steelers early last season after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys, agreed to a one-year contract that is expected to be worth the $955,000 minimum.
Polamalu and Miller gave the Steelers badly needed salary cap space by signing three-year contracts worth $20 million for Polamalu and $14.02 million for Miller. However, neither player is guaranteed money past 2014, and the deals effectively mostly served to convert salary into signing bonuses — moves that will give the Steelers about $7.9 million in cap space.
In all, by releasing Foote and the two Browns and reworking the Miller and Polamalu contracts, the Steelers created about $15 million of cap space — or almost exactly how much they were above the $133 million cap after putting the transition tag on outside linebacker Jason Worilds. He is guaranteed $9.754 million unless he signs a multiyear contract.
The next move to free up cap space could be cutting the salary of cornerback Ike Taylor, who is scheduled to make $7 million and has a salary cap hit of nearly $12 million.
Before making the moves, the Steelers had seven players who were due to count $8 million or more against the cap in 2014, the most of any team, and they were the only team substantially above the cap in advance of the March 11 start of free agency.
The Steelers converted $5 million of Miller's negotiated $6 million 2014 salary into a guaranteed signing bonus, thus reducing his cap hit from $9.5 million to $6,133,166. He is scheduled to make $4 million in 2015 and '16.
Polamalu's cap hit was trimmed from $10,887,000 to $6.3 million in 2014, apparently by reducing his base salary from $8.25 million to $1.25 million and converting the other $7 million into a signing bonus. Such a deal would give him base salaries averaging $5.875 million in 2015 and '16, but neither season is guaranteed for a player who turns 33 in April.
Foote, who will be 34 in June, succeeded James Farrior as the Steelers' defensive playcaller in 2012 and was an integral part of their defense at inside linebacker until tearing a biceps muscle in the 2013 season opener against Tennessee and missing the rest of the season.
The Steelers will save about $1.16 million of cap space by cutting Foote, who had a cap value of $1,833,333, a base salary of $1.5 million and dead money worth $666,667 that still counts against the cap.
Curtis Brown, a third-round pick from Texas in 2011, was one of the Steelers' best special teams players in 2012 but barely played last season before tearing an ACL against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 24.
The Steelers acquired Levi Brown from the Arizona Cardinals after left tackle Mike Adams was beaten for 3 1⁄2 sacks against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29. But Brown tore a triceps during the pregame warm-ups before the New York Jets game Oct. 13 and never got on the field. He was due to make $6 million this season.