Steelers could cut pair of defensive veterans as cap casualties

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have two more needs come the start of free agency and in the 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL free agency is right around the corner. With that in mind, teams now prepare to build their rosters for the hope of winning a championship by next season.

What to make of the Pittsburgh Steelers? That’s a question that has ripple effect of leading in a positive or negative direction.

The Steelers started last season 11-0 and were the final team to lose a game. The offense fell out, the defense struggled and they managed to lose four of their last five outings, barely clinching the AFC North title. They also received an early exit in the Wild Card Round thanks to their rival Cleveland Browns.

Pittsburgh must decide on the pending status of Ben Roethlisberger entering the offseason. Should they bring him back, the 39-year-old could make up to $41.5 million on his current deal.

There’s also another way to trim the fat without losing Roethlisberger; cutting players on the defense. The first two names in mind? Cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Vince Williams.

Could Pittsburgh lose two members of the Steel Curtain defense?

Williams is entering the final year of his current deal with the team. Should he be released, the Steelers would save $4 million in cap space this offseason. The same goes for Haden, who has been their top cover corner since joining back in 2017.

Haden could earn up to $13 million in 2021 after signing a two-year extension back in 2019 worth $22 million. Should the Steelers part ways with the Pro Bowl cornerback, they would save a mere $8.25 million against the cap space.

Pittsburgh will be a different team in 2021 even if they do release a pair of talented defenders. Both tight end Vance McDonald and center Maurkice Pouncey retired this offseason. Running back James Conner, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, linebacker Bud Dupree and tackle Alejandro Villanueva are unrestricted free agents.

Pittsburgh’s playoff window is closing fast. It might have already closed even if Roethlisberger returns next season. Kevin Colbert will need to free up some cap space, but he also is trying to win one more title with the former 2004 first-round selections.

No matter how you spin it, there are troubling times ahead for Pittsburgh.