Welcome back to your weekly Thursday edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers mailbag. As always, we’re here for the next hour to answer anything and everything on your mind.
To your questions!
Froggy: Football? This fall? Really? Players will test positive, then one or more will get sick, end up in the hospital, and die — and football will continue as before? And a related subject, if social distancing is mandated during the games, won’t it be a big boost for the offense?
Alex: All important questions. Things we’ve talked and written about on the podcast and site. It’s going to be a year unlike any other. There will be positive cases, there will be rosters shuffling, outbreaks, debates about the best course of action, if sports are worth it. We’ll see how the MLB handles things a little bit before the NFL really gets going with its season. They can be a bit of a guide for the NFL.
But there’s potential for the sport to reach a point where you say, it isn’t worth it anymore. But they’re going to give football a shot. What happens from September on is anyone’s guess.
Does a lack of fans help the offense? In some sense. Makes it easier for them to communicate. Of course, the defense (and coaches) can now hear everything the offense is doing, their calls and checks, and that gives them an advantage too. Something worth considering.
Let’s assume there is a season (I NEED football and real sports news) in 2020.
Who you taking as the surprise Steeler player (in a good way) and why?
Alex: I’ll stick with some of the more conventional second-year players. Benny Snell and Ulysees Gilbert III, two guys I’ve spent plenty of time talking about in the offseason. Snell for that classic second-year jump you see from a lot of running backs. Think how much different James Conner was from his rookie year to his second year. Not saying Snell will do the same but I think he’s someone the team is much higher on than fans.
And UG3 unfortunately won’t get much of a chance to show his growth this preseason/summer, which hurts him, but I was still excited by what I saw in camp/preseason and on special teams in the regular season as a rookie.
ImMikeD: Hey Alex. Hope all is well. I’m sure it’d likely been reported on here on the always great Depot, but any Shazier updates lately?
Alex: Hey Mike! Doing well, hope you are too. Not a whole lot of Shazier updates. Placed on Reserved/Retired list earlier this year which seemed more of a procedural thing than him actually expressing a desire to retire. Will he ever play again? I can’t say. There’s still a hill to climb. But his progress has been remarkable and I’m thrilled he’s at a point where he can live a normal, healthy life with his wife and children. That’s most important.
I certainly won’t tell Shazier he can’t come back to football. Sure a lot of people said he wouldn’t walk again, have a normal life, get to play with his kids, and he’s already checked all those boxes in such a short amount of time. And if football isn’t in the cards again, he’s been active as a coach and scout within the organization.
Jeff P: Let’s assume the NFL does not push back the deadline for deals for franchise tag players, do you ultimately see a deal getting done with Dupree? Also, do you ultimately see a Cam Heyward extension before the season starts?
Alex: I don’t see it happening. Too much uncertainty with future cap, even though I don’t expect the salary to free-fall like some have speculated. But I don’t think this is the time you go for big-time extensions unless you’re a Patrick Mahomes type. I think you play this season out and compare who you value most with the many, many FAs-to-be after the season. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think the extension happens.
Cam is a different story. Still think that happens because he’s in that TJ Watt, no-brainer camp. But there will be time for that to take place and hopefully a clearer picture on the cap situation before September. Heyward is the only extension I see occurring before the start of the year.
Douglas Prostorog: which conference will be the next to call of fall sports?
Alex: Good question. Which Power 5 will be the first to fall, if any? I imagine smaller conferences will go first, like C-USA or the Sun Belt, before a major conference making a ton of money gives in. Seems like the P5 and probably all of D-1 football will start by trying to just play their conference schedule, just like the Big Ten did.
Stone Age Tone: Hey Alex, really pessimistic over here in England, sorry, cancelled my Game Pass today. Do you REALLY think the NFL can work in 2020?
Alex: They’re going to give it a shot but it’s harder and harder to be optimistic for how well it’s going to work. Positive cases, players missing time, football’s going to look a whole lot different. We’ll all find out together.