Eisenberg: Ravens Navigating Cap Better Than Steelers


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And off the field, some unusual sights and sounds have been coming out of Pittsburgh since the end of the season.

Right away, the front office clashed with the football office, forcing a change at the offensive coordinator slot. I don't have the space to go into the details of what has been quite a soap opera in the Steel City, and the "higher-ups" on any team certainly have the right to make changes they deem necessary (Bisciotti did it when he fired Brian Billick after the 2007 season), but let's just say the Steelers' transaction has been surprisingly clumsy at times.

Then came the more startling news that the Steelers were way, way over the salary cap -- by some $25 million according to the GM.

That has forced them to restructure the contracts of (at this point) five veterans, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who agreed to restructure for the second time in six months.

Those moves and the jettisoning of a couple of overpaid vets should help the Steelers get back under the cap by March 13, but when you restructure contracts you're only pushing your debt farther down the line, basically putting it on a credit card you eventually have to pay.

The Ravens have endeavored to avoid that dangerous practice in recent years, having seen it get them in trouble once before, a decade ago. When you push your debt down the line, you invariably wind up paying for players who are either no longer on your team or no longer worth their salary.

"If you're not careful, then you are going to have a lot of dead money on your salary cap," Bisciotti said earlier this month. "So, we are conservative when it comes to how much (they put) on the credit card. That's how the (Super Bowl) window opens and closes, I believe."

It could be the Steelers are restructuring en masse without steering themselves toward salary cap hell. They're good at this stuff, as their record indicates. They deserve the benefit of the doubt.

You can be sure they'll be ready this fall to try to turn the tables on the Ravens. The AFC North title was settled by a tiebreaker in 2011. There's not much separating them. The Ravens had the upper hand last season, but it isn't a trend until it happens twice in a row.

But if you had to pick which of the two is doing a better job of navigating the cap and keeping everyone in the organization on the same page, well, it's not the gold standard.

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