The Steelers are shelling out a lot of money to their starting defensive line, most of it to Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
With those two accounting for more than $28 million in 2019 salary cap space, the defensive line accounts for 18.36 percent of the team's cap space this season. Only the offensive line accounts for more.
And that's with nose tackle Javon Hargrave, a former third-round pick, still playing on his rookie contract and making just $2.1 million this season.
If they hope to keep their starting threesome together in the future, they're going to have to increase that percentage significantly. Hargrave is entering the final season of his rookie contract. And based on his level of play, he'll be due a hefty raise.
The Steelers currently have just $985,000 in 2019 cap space, so signing Hargrave to a new deal before the season begins would take some maneuvering. And, in fact, according to a source, the team hasn't had any official talks about that because of those cap issues.
But the team is very interested in signing Hargrave to a contract extension at some point -- even if it has to come at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
The issue is what to pay a player who, despite starting as a rookie in 2016, has never appeared in more than 47 percent of the team's defensive snaps in any single season. In fact, in 2018, Hargrave was on the field just 43 percent of the time, a career low for the big nose tackle.
Despite that limited playing time, Hargrave set career highs for sacks (6.5) and tackles (49), showing the 26-year-old might be primed for even more.