Imge Courtesy of Rich Schultz / 2013 Getty Images
Today various sources reported that the NFL will increase the 2014 salary cap to $130 million. That’s a 5% increase over the $123 million cap in place for 2013 and higher than the $126.3 million that was anticipated just a few weeks ago. And the Steelers are going to come out winners. Here’s why:
The Steelers are currently one of a couple teams over the salary cap. They have until March 11, the start of the new NFL calendar year, to become cap compliant. Whether the final cap number had came in at $123 million, $126 million or $130 million the Steelers, like every other team, are going to be compliant or face draconian penalties from Herr Goodell. (And Steelers fans already believe the Park Ave suits have it out for them as they await resolution of Tomlin’s Sidelinegate fiasco.)
Yet every offseason we hear the national media wail about how the Steelers are in cap hell and face dire financial prospects. Based on some reports it’s a wonder the Steelers can even field a team year-in and year-out, let alone a competitive one (depending on whether you view the 8-8 record of the past two seasons as competitive).
As Kevin Colbert told me yesterday (podcast of my interview & a partial transcript) the cap situation isn’t anything unforeseen. It’s not like the contracts are sneaking up on anyone. For 15 years Colbert and his staff led by Omar Kahn have managed to deal within the league-mandated structure. Sometimes it requires tough decisions, but the Steelers deal with it and then go out and spend to the virtual limit of the cap again the next year. It's part of their DNA, unlike many other teams that pocket the massive profits they generate each season. I’m looking at you Cincinnati. I’m looking at you Cleveland.
If you're a fan it's a huge win. You know the Steelers are going to go out and spend that extra $7 million in cap space on payroll in an effort to put the best team out there. And next season, like clockwork, we’ll hear the wail of the national media again.
If you’ve listened to my show on 970 ESPN the past few years, you’ve heard me defend the Pirates spendthrift ways under the current management team because they weren’t ready to compete at the major league level. Their approach, rebuilding the infrastructure of a decrepit organization, made sense. Last year the organization and its fanbase finally saw the payoff of a solid plan.
But what now? For the last four months you’ve heard me rip that same ownership group for not spending any money to improve a team that is ready to compete for a championship given a few well-targeted additions. Even with the massive windfall in TV revenues and increases in attendance and concessions the Pirates have stood pat. And this has only enhanced their reputation, well-earned from the early-90s through the first half of this century, as being a cheap organization.
That has never been the case with the Steelers. Yes, the Rooneys are making a boatload of money, nobody needs to pass the hat. But in the much-more-level playing field of NFL economics, the Steelers and their fans are winners with the announcement of today’s extra cap space. It’s not the breathing room the extra cap dollars create, the budget will quickly gobble that up. It’s the fact that there are extra dollars to spend. And the Steelers win-now approach means they are going to spend those dollar to put the best team on the field.
Every fanbase should be so lucky to have a management team that takes that approach. Love’em or hate’em, don’t call the Steelers cheap.