As of this writing, and almost surely as of the time that this posts, the Pittsburgh Steelers are among the substantial number of teams whose offseason rosters remain at or near 90 players. Earlier in the month, a mutual negotiation between the NFL and NFLPA agreed that teams would trim their rosters down to 80 players by August 16, but those who fail to do so would be required to run their practices in a split-squad schedule.
Under the split squad rules, teams would be required to divide their roster into two distinct working groups that may not intermingle. The first group would consist of rookie and first-year players, and at the team’s discretion, some or all of the team’s quarterbacks and injured players. The second group would be made up entirely of the veterans.
Teams may arrange for the separate groups to work simultaneously or at different times of the day, but in order for them to work at the same time, they would be required to work in different facilities—for example, one at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, one in Heinz Field—and they are also required to use separate locker rooms.
Considering the fact that the Steelers signed a player to the roster yesterday after being given a roster exemption for Arrion Springs when he was moved to the reserve/Covid-19 list, it seems to be an indication that they do intend to stick with a maximum roster, at least for now, if not as long as possible.
Under the memo handed out over the weekend, teams may integrate their two working groups at any time after they reduce their roster to no more than 80 players, whether that comes at or before August 16, but all teams are required to be in compliance with that total figure at that time, which is when padded practices begin. At that point, all teams’ rosters will be integrated, at no more than 80 players.
The NFL just sent a memo out to teams. The start details reporting dates and time players can spend at facilities. That’s here. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/vdG8D0dWfb
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 25, 2020
That date, it might be worth noting, is a not a seamless parallel for the former model that the NFL had, before they shifted to having only one roster cutdown. Previously, teams would cut their roster down from 90 to 75 players in late August, before a final roster cut down to 53 was conducted shortly after the preseason was concluded.
With no preseason this year, it doesn’t necessarily make much sense to wait, but under these conditions, teams will not have the opportunity to view players in padded-practice or live-contact drills before they must decide which players to cut to get down to 80, if they do choose to carry more than that figure into training camp.
As a reminder, there are no practices beyond a couple of walkthroughs before August 12, which is when the ‘ramp-up period’ begins. The first couple of weeks of training camp are for Covid-19 testing, physicals, and strength and conditioning work, so it’s not really crucial if teams use a split-squad approach before then.