Heading into 2022, there are 14 teams whose biggest cap hit on offense is their quarterback. There are seven teams whose biggest cap hit on offense is an offensive lineman. Six teams are spending the most on a wide receiver. Three on a tight end (JAX, MIA, NE) and one on a running back (CIN). That makes 31 teams. The only team left is the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Their highest-paid offensive player in 2022 will be their fullback, Derek Watt. Watt has a $4,713,334 cap hit attached to him this year. That’s more than starting right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor ($4,333,333 cap hit), more than Diontae Johnson ($3,073,357), more than Najee Harris ($2,965,329), and yes, it’s more than any quarterback on their roster.
Like what on Earth are the Steelers thinking?
Pittsburgh has the seventh-most cap space in the NFL right now and there are still some very solid free agents out there. J.C. Tretter is an elite center, and he’s available for the Steelers to take! Their current center Mason Cole is fine in the run game, but was consistently decimated as a pass blocker last year. Go sign Tretter! Tackle Duane Brown certainly isn’t what he once was, but at least he’s a proven vet and would probably be an upgrade over third-round pick Dan Moore. That’s just the linemen.
The team lost JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason, and they could really use another passing weapon to help ease rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett into the league. Odell Beckham Jr. is still there. Julio Jones, Will Fuller, hell, I know TE Pat Freiermuth showed a lot of promise last year, but there’s no harm in picking up Rob Gronkowski when you’ve got almost $20 million in cap space left. All of these guys could probably be signed for reduced deals too! Just don’t go into 2022 paying your fullback more than anyone else on offense!
Watt only saw the field on seven percent of offensive snaps last season. SEVEN PERCENT! He might as well be a stray cat storming the field at that percentage! Watt saw the field nearly four times more often on special teams than offense. In 2021, he saw 86 offensive snaps and 332 special teams snaps. He is pretty much exclusively a special teamer and he’s your highest-paid offensive player. That’s just embarrassing.
How do you let that happen? How do you even pay your fullback over four million dollars to begin with? There’s no denying that San Francisco’s Kyle Juszczyk is the best fullback in football. He has been for several years now. He’s making less than three million in 2022. Juszczyk does have that lucrative Incogmeato deal going for him, though, so maybe he’s willing to take a smaller salary. That’s a joke of course. His deal is backlogged and he’s going to make more than six million in 2023, but the points I’m trying to make still stand.
- Watt shouldn’t be making nearly as much money as he is in 2022
- The Steelers need to spend more on offense
The more I look at this Steelers team, the more I think that their front office has already decided to throw in the towel for 2022.
They’ve made zero effort to extend Diontae Johnson. And they didn’t address their offensive line in the draft, which was a huge problem last year and a big reason why Najee Harris averaged less than four yards per carry last season, the third-worst of any halfback in 2021 with at least 200 carries (James Conner, Alvin Kamara).
I guess the team still has time to make a splash before the season starts, but they’ve already had several opportunities to do so and haven’t made a sound. They’re in arguably the toughest division in football and haven’t had a losing record since 2003, yet the team seems content with where it’s at.
Over the last 20 or so years, I’ve learned to never bet against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but paying a fullback more than anyone else on offense in 2022? That’s blasphemy to the highest degree, and it shouldn’t shock anyone that they’ve got the lowest odds to win the AFC North next year (+1100), more than five times higher than the next closest team, the Baltimore Ravens (+210).