The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How might the league alter the 53-man roster or the practice squad for this season in light of Covid-19?
The end of this past week has seen a series of conference calls within the NFLPA about their concerns with returning to play amid a pandemic. Dialogue between the players union and the NFL is ongoing as we approach the start point for training camps around the league. Many avenues are being explored as possible responses.
One thing that we have heard is that the league is considering expanding the practice squad to up to 20 players, in the hopes that it would give teams enough of a ‘buffer’ in the event that they experience an outbreak of Covid-19 in their facility and a given amount of players have to be quarantined.
We haven’t heard anything about the potential of expanding the 53-man roster, though personally, I’m not very surprised by that, as it would add additional questions about the salary cap, and the league would have to explore the possibly of creating salary exemptions, which I’m not sure is even possible.
An expanded practice squad, in conjunction with another idea that has been discussed, a Covid-specific reserve list, could greatly help in the event of an outbreak, giving teams the ability to put quarantined players on a short-term reserve list and calling up practice squad players. But that only helps if it’s a minor outbreak, and likely one spread out over several positions, which seems less likely than an outbreak affecting one or two positions that are more likely to be working together.