Increase in salary cap will help Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers were only expecting a modest bump in the salary cap, which was $123 million in 2013.

The cap will actually increase by 5 percent or $7 million in 2014, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

That might seem like finding spare change among sofa cushions when you’re talking about such big money. But it is significant to the Steelers, who are among the teams that have to shed salary before March 11 and were probably anticipating that the cap would be in the $125 to $127 million range.

The Steelers shouldn’t have any trouble getting under the cap through a combination of releasing players and restructuring contracts. They can also lower their cap number by signing veterans to long-term deals and spreading signing bonuses over the life of the new contracts.

The Steelers have to clear enough room under the cap to sign free agents, including their own, and general manager Kevin Colbert told 970 ESPN in Pittsburgh that the organization might be bigger players in free agency than they have been in years past.

“I think there's a possibility we could be more active in the free agency market this year,” Colbert said on Wednesday. “Not only from an availability standpoint or from a depth-requirement standpoint, but also from a cap situation that we haven't been able to do those types of things in the past because, quite honestly, we had more work to do just to get into compliance.”

Colbert’s comments suggest the Steelers aren’t facing nearly as many tough decisions in regard to the cap as in recent years. They could look to fill a couple of holes on defense through free agency, most notably at free safety with Ryan Clark unlikely to return.

That is not to say the Steelers will go on a spending spree on March 11.

“Generally the philosophy will stay the same,” Colbert said, “keep your own (free agents) if at all possible, and get the right draft picks.”