It was just two weeks ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers terminated the contract of starting cornerback Steven Nelson, the move coming less than an hour after Nelson implored the Steelers not to hold him “hostage.”
On Tuesday Nelson appeared on Movin’ the Chains with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on SiriusXM NFL Radio, perhaps in an effort to try to counter the rumors that have emerged in the wake of his release, with some suggesting that Nelson didn’t want to compete for a starting job and that he had refused to take a pay cut to remain with the team.
“I want to make it very clear,” said Nelson on Movin’ the Chains, per Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, “there was never a discussion of me taking a pay cut. I was never even given that opportunity to take a pay cut.”
"I want to may it very clear … there was never a discussion of me taking a pay cut. I was never even given that opportunity to take a pay cut."
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) April 6, 2021
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In fact, Nelson went on to say he felt he had “outplayed” the $25.5 million contract he signed in 2019 and that he deserved an extension, one that would help the Steelers with their cap situation in 2021, if not future years.
The Steelers Saved $8.25 Million, Spent Some of That on Cam Sutton
But the Steelers decided to release him and save his $8.25 million salary, despite the fact that terminating his contract adds another $6.17 million in ‘dead money’ to Pittsburgh’s 2021 salary cap.
It seems the Steelers preferred to spend their money on Cameron Sutton, who was an unrestricted free agent before they re-signed him to a two-year, $9 million contract. In all likelihood, Sutton will take Nelson’s place in the starting lineup, though the loss of Nelson—not to mention slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who inked a four-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals—leaves the Steelers decidedly thin at the cornerback position.
Alternatively, Sutton might take over for Hilton at slot cornerback, though that assumes that Pittsburgh deems one of its other cornerbacks—or a rookie draft pick—is worthy of starting opposite Joe Haden.
Existing candidates currently on the roster include former third-round pick Justin Layne, or former undrafted free agent James Pierre (Florida Atlantic), who earned a spot on the 53-man roster as a rookie. One other dark-horse candidate is Trevor Williams, who started 15 games for the Chargers in 2017 but has had difficulty staying healthy, arguably the biggest reason why he has been unable to maintain a starting job.
Steven Nelson: ‘I am a cap victim’
As for Nelson, he told Miller and Kirwan that he’s simply like a lot of other NFL players who have been impacted by the salary cap going down to $182.5 million, this as opposed to the $200 million-plus that was expected in 2021 before the pandemic hit.
“I understand it’s a business and how that goes,” concluded Nelson. “I am a cap victim. For me, I’m just using it as fuel to the fire,” volunteering that “10 to 15 teams have serious interest” in his services. But at the moment, Nelson remains unemployed, and seems likely to remain so until after the draft, when teams have a better idea of their needs going into next season.
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