Two days after placing the transition tag on linebacker Jason Worilds and watching their salary cap number balloon to $15 million over for the upcoming season, the Steelers made a flurry of moves Wednesday to reduce that number.
The Steelers signed safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller to contract extensions through 2016, agreed to terms with impending free agent safety Will Allen and released linebacker Larry Foote, offensive tackle Levi Brown and cornerback Curtis Brown.
All told, the team finds itself right at the $133 million salary cap, which all teams must be under when the league’s new year begins Tuesday.
The extensions for Polamalu and Miller cleared nearly $8 million in cap space for 2014 while assuring two of the team’s most respected players will have the opportunity to finish their careers with the Steelers.
“I am thankful and blessed to be in a position to play my entire career in Pittsburgh,” Polamalu tweeted.
Polamalu, 32, an eight-time Pro Bowl player and 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, received a three-year deal worth a total of $20 million and will lower his 2014 cap number from $10.89 million to around $6.3 million, a savings of $4.5 million.
Miller, the Steelers’ MVP in 2012, was scheduled to count $9.5 million against the team’s 2014 cap with a base salary of $6 million. The new deal will pay the 31-year-old $14 million over the next three seasons, with $1 million as salary in 2014 and $5 million in signing bonus.
His 2014 cap number falls to $6.13 million, a savings of $3.4 million.
Polamalu and Miller were first-round draft picks of the Steelers in 2003 and 2005, respectively, and both have been key contributors in the team’s past three trips to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers saved nearly $8 million with the release of Foote, Levi Brown and Curtis Brown.
Foote, 33, spent 11 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Steelers and was their starter at inside linebacker to open the 2013 season. But he suffered an arm injury in the opener and missed the entire season, opening the door for rookie Vince Williams to take his place in the lineup.
Levi Brown was acquired in a trade for a conditional draft pick from Arizona last Oct. 2, but failed to appear in a game for the Steelers after suffering a season-ending triceps injury during pregame warmups before an Oct. 13 win against the New York Jets. He failed to meet any of the conditions of the trade and the Steelers will not owe the Cardinals a draft pick in return for acquiring him.
Curtis Brown was a third-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2011, the same season the team took cornerback Cortez Allen in the fourth round. But injuries and ineffectiveness plagued him throughout his time with the Steelers, limiting him to 34 games in three seasons.
The deal for Allen, 31, will pay the 11-year-veteran $950,000 in base salary and likely means the Steelers will not make an attempt to sign longtime starting free safety Ryan Clark to a new deal. Clark is among 19 Steelers scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Steelers continue to attempt to create additional cap space by negotiating a long-term deal with Worilds that also will lower his 2014 cap number while keeping him in Pittsburgh beyond 2014.