Ranking of the Steelers’ Top Five Salary Bargains: Fitzpatrick, Watt among Pittsburgh’s highest values

Despite having a roster that includes a dozen former professional bowlers and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, Steelers veteran general manager Kevin Colbert has managed to keep Pittsburgh off the hook in what Regarding the team salary limit. His handling of the Steelers’ salary cap is one reason why Pittsburgh has been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL since Colbert joined the team’s headquarters in 2000. One of the reasons why Steelers were able to go out and sign tight end Eric Ebron, offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski and fullback Derek Watt is the fact that they have four former Pro Bowls who have a combined cap of $ 10.5 million. Each of those payers is included in Pittsburgh’s five highest-value contracts.

On every championship roster, you’ll find a series of salary cap bargains. Usually these players are on their rookie contracts. Sometimes they are signed into free agency for trial contracts for a year. So today we’re going to dig a little deeper into the Steelers list to identify the five players who have the highest “value” for the franchise from a salary standpoint. We will reference Spotrac for all cap numbers, using each player’s 2020 cap success, and rank them in order of value.

2020 wage cap blow: $ 1.96 million

The Steelers definitely don’t regret their decision to switch last year’s first-round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for Fitzpatrick, the second-best safety in Patrik Walker’s recent CBS Sports ranking of the league’s best defenders. Tyrann Mathieu of the Chiefs, the highest-ranked security on Walker’s list, earns $ 14 million annually.

In 14 games with the Steelers last season, Fitzpatrick, who is entering the third year of his rookie contract, earned All-Pro honors after recording five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He also scored two touchdowns while helping the Pittsburgh defense finish third in the league in yards allowed and fifth in points allowed.

2. TJ Watt, Rusher

2020 wage cap blow: $ 2.95 million

Twice-time Pro Bowler, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, had his Steelers’ fifth-year pick earlier this offseason. Each time he receives his new contract, Watt will likely seek to earn at least $ 20 million annually, as the five highest-paid outside linebackers in the league each earn at least $ 18 million annually, with Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack winning $ 23.5 million per season.

The 30th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Watt has 34.5 sacks, 36 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles and three interceptions in three seasons with the Steelers. He filled the stat sheet in 2019, setting career highs in sacks (14.5), losses (14), loose ball recoveries (four) and interceptions (two) while leading the league with eight forced fumbles.

2020 salary cap blow: $ 1.34 million

Smith-Schuster, the 62nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, seemed destined for an early contract extension after earning the team’s MVP honors in 2018. But after a rocky 2019 season that saw him record for his career in receptions (42), yards (552), and touchdowns (three), Smith-Schuster will likely have to play the 2020 season under his rookie contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

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Smith-Schuster, who suffered several injuries throughout the 2019 season, should be prepared for a recovery season in 2020. Ben Roethlisberger is expected to be ready for the start of the season after missing most of 2019 with a elbow injury. The continued emergence of Diontae Johnson should also help open things up for Smith-Schuster, while the addition of rookie Chase Claypool should allow Smith-Schuster to return to the slot, where he was highly successful during the first two seasons of his career.

2020 salary cap blow: $ 1.09 million

The third member of Pittsburgh’s draft class in 2017 to find a place on this list, Conner, a 2018 Pro Bowler, comes from a disappointing 2019 season that saw him lose six games due to injury. Conner, a former third-round pick, was productive when he was on the field in 2019, scoring seven touchdowns and averaging four respectable yards per carry.


While his productivity has never been in doubt, Conner’s durability remains a question mark when he enters the final season under his rookie contract. While Conner is still to be considered Pittsburgh’s primary ball carrier when he is healthy, the Steelers may decide to lessen his workload after selecting former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland in the fourth round. Pittsburgh’s backfield also includes 2018 fifth-round pick Jaylen Samuels and 2019 fourth-round pick Benny Snell, who saw a sizable amount of reps in relief from Conner during his rookie season.

5. Diontae Johnson, wide receiver

2020 salary cap blow: $ 972,946

While 2019 rookie Devin Bush (who has a 2020 salary cap of $ 4,289,038) gave him a shot at his money, Johnson makes the cut as the team’s fifth-highest-value contract entering the 2020 season. No. 66 in last year’s draft, the former Toledo Rocket led the Steelers in receptions (59) and touchdown (five) last season, while finishing second on the team with 680 receiving yards.


The 2018 Mid-American Conference Special Team Player of the Year, Johnson led the NFL last season with an average of 12.4 yards for each punt. He also posted the league season’s punt return, an 85-yard return for a score during Pittsburgh’s Week 14 win over the Cardinals. Johnson’s success earned him second-team All-Pro honors, as he was one of three Steelers to obtain All-Pro status last season.