PITTSBURGH -- The money is catching up to the talent. The Steelers' offensive trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell should make up nearly one third of the team's salary-cap projections in light of Brown's new five-year, $72.7 million megadeal.
Brown seems to sense the urgency associated with the money, citing the need to improve as a vocal leader and help the Steelers capitalize on a championship window.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure that comes in that regard," Brown said Tuesday while wearing maroon slippers and socks featuring his own face. "That's the way we want it. We want it that way. That's always been the Steelers' way, so I'm excited to get the journey started this year. Every year we've got to prepare like it's our last year."
The Steelers are doing just that by paying the offense in win-now coins. The team is committed to an estimated $48 million in cap hits from Roethlisberger ($18.2 million), Brown ($17.4 million) and Bell ($12.4 million, franchise tag), assuming Brown's proration of nearly $9 million from his previous deal sticks, though the Steelers might have ways to rework that figure. A long-term deal for Bell could assuage immediate cap pain, too.
But you get the point. This star-driven offense is paid to produce. DKPittsburghSports' Mark Kaboly reports that no other team in the NFL has $100 million committed to an offense. My recent study of the Steelers' salary cap had the offense at around $85 million before Brown's deal, which calls for a $19 million signing bonus.
The Steelers have nearly $30 million committed to their top three offensive linemen. Center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro and tackle Marcus Gilbert combine for $29,409,500 in 2017 salary-cap space.
This trend could shift as young defensive players such as linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive end Stephon Tuitt hit their contract negotiating window. But the offense probably isn't done, either, with left tackle Alejandro Villanueva a candidate for a long-term contract.
The Steelers have chosen to extend core players and fill the rest of the roster with rookie or low-level deals, save exceptions such as tight end Ladarius Green.
In Brown's case, the Steelers are hopeful his penchant for hard work will validate the millions. This week, Steelers president Art Rooney II called Brown one of the hardest workers he has seen in his building. The Steelers and Brown hope that ethic overshadows the Facebook Live incident and other off-field antics.
"Knowing how to inspire your teammates," Brown said. "And knowing, with all that happened, there's going to be an extra eye on me."
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