The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
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: With new players continuing to opt out for the 2020 season every day, will the Steelers have anybody do so before the deadline is reached?
As of this writing, a little over 40 NFL players have so far officially chosen to opt out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19 concerns. The majority of them accepted the ‘voluntary’ opt out, which gives them a $150,000 stipend but deprives them of an accrued season, but those with a genuine medical exemption will receive $350,000 and an accrued season. A select few players, such as rookie undrafted free agents, are not eligible to receive a stipend for choosing opt out.
As we brought you yesterday, so far the Steelers are one of seemingly few teams who have not yet been affecting by their players choosing to opt out of the season. There is no reason to believe that the players have been made to feel any pressure to play. Head Coach Mike Tomlin has made it very clear that they will support any player’s decision.
There were two high-profile names that people have speculated about, namely running back James Conner, who is a cancer survivor, and Cameron Heyward, who battles asthma. While there was some consternation over the status particularly of the latter, both have every intention of playing.
But will that be the case for everybody? Players have until at least Wednesday, if not even longer, to decide to opt out, and there have been multiple players adding their name to the list almost every day.